Illinois Residents Still Being Targeted By Unemployment Fraud As the State Continues to be Slammed by Fake Filings

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

IDES is on high alert after an onslaught of fake unemployment claims causes residents financial hardship.

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With only 10 weeks left of pandemic unemployment benefits, fraudsters are making a cash grab while they can.

It’s been 15 months of continued attempts by fraudsters to file fake claims for unemployment benefits in Illinois. To date, the head of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) says the state has stopped around 1.7 million false claims.  Coupled with that, are the millions of times scammers have tried to tap into the computer system. However, they have not disclosed how many fake claims have slipped through or how much money has been lost.

Illinois Still Slammed by Faudulent Unemployment Claims and IDES Expects it to Get Worse

The problem is that scammers are continuously coming up with new ways to trick the system, constantly altering and evolving their fraud schemes to crack state unemployment insurance agencies anti-fraud measures. One of these ways is to use random addresses to file claims. They may take dozens of names and use the same address such that people get a pile of letters addressed to people they don't know. This makes it harder for officials to locate where the fraud is occuring.

Unemployment experts say that fraudsters regularly access people’s personal information, often on the dark web where it can end up after a data breach. They then use it to impersonate the individual and file an unemployment claim. Unemployment fraud scamware is now being offered on the dark web on a software-as-a-service basis, similar to ransomware.

The tutorial for Illinois describes what parts to leave blank, where to answer "no", and when to click "next." It also give instrucftions for filling out the phone number which is to just find the area code and fill in anything for the rest of it.

There are a minimum of 25 states that will stop paying unemployment benefits prior to the September deadline. As Illinois is not one of them, the state is a prime target for scammers trying to clean up before the pandemic benefits are cut off everywhere. Because of this, IDES agency is on high alert for what they expect will be an onslaught of more fraudulent unemployment claims. 

IDES Warns Illinois Residents to be Vigilant as Phishing Scams Increase

While IDES has been suffering from increasing fraudulent claims, Illinois state officials are also warning the public to be on alert for phishing scams as fraudsters are attempting to exploit unemployment systems during the pandemic. 

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), there have been fraudulent text messages, emails and social media messages with fraudsters posing as IDES and other state agencies, using logos and promising high paying benefits in return. Their goal is to gain legitamate personal information that can be used in a fraudulent claim.

"This is a continued, organized attempt to defraud state unemployment insurance systems until the expiration of the federal unemployment programs on Sept. 4, 2021," state officials said Wed. in a press release. 

All residents are being told to keep a close watch for fraudulent correspondence, whether or not they are or intend to become claimants. Officials are recommending that people take steps to strengthen and protect information on all of their online accounts. IDES claimants should make sure that their passwords are strong and unique, meaning they aren't used for any other accounts, and they should never share personal account information with anyone. If contacted about a claim without first putting in a call, claimants should end the communication immediately and call the department directly to find out if the communication they received was legitamate.  

Don't Let Scammers Use You to Steal Money That Should Be Helping Those in Need

If a letter from IDES comes to your home or business, and you don’t recognize the person it is addressed to or have not filed a claim for unemployment, you should report it immediately. IDES will let you know if you should send in a copy of the letter as evidence or destroy it.

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