Fraudulent unemployment claims filed in Chicago, Illinois, continue to increase. The claims are clogging the state system that is only designed to give financial assistance to those who recently lost their jobs.

Unemployment benefits scam

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, there are now 42,496 fraudulent claims identified in the regular employment system since March.

Additionally, the IDES stated that 169,506 fraudulent claims had been identified in the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program since May 11.

The program benefits many self-employed workers and independent contractors who have been determined ineligible for state unemployment benefits.

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NBC 5 has interviewed one of the victims. Amy Buikema currently works as a financial compliance associate.

But she recently received a letter and a debit card after someone has filed an unemployment claim in her name. She said that the letter had her salary information for her current employment, so whoever filed it knew everything about her.

Buikema notified the IDES of the fraud, and she also put a freeze on her credit to protect her personal information from being used by someone else. However, she said that the state failed to respond to her in the weeks following her initial complaint.

NBC 5 also reached out to the IDES and inquired about Buikema's concerns. A spokesperson said that the department is now working on a large number of fraud complaints. Buikema later received a letter from the IDES explaining that the claim was closed because of fraud.

The Illinois Department of Employment Services said that debit cards that arrive unexpectedly might not have money pre-loaded. Still, fraudsters may try to access a victim's account information to divert payments to another card or account.

Chris Kanich, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Illinois-Chicago, urged people to use strong and unique online passwords to protect their identities.

Kanich said that it is a great thing to be proactive and get your freeze credit report from the three main agencies. It is best to review it for any credit lines that are open in your name because you might have already had your identity stolen and not even know it yet.

Reporting fraud

If you think you have been victimized, IDES asks that you visit the agency's website or contact the agency to file a report. IDES stated that it would investigate the report and forward their findings to law enforcement.

Remember to save proof of the submission by printing, taking a screenshot, or a picture of your screen with your phone. You can call the IDES fraud number: 800-814-0513. Suppose reporting identity theft, press 1.

Once you get a callback, an agent will ask you for the claimant number filed in your name and the last four digits of your social.

As soon as the FBI has investigated your case, you will be informed of the outcome. The IDS also noted that if you receive a debit card, do not activate it.

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