Illinois still slammed by fake unemployment filings

WGN Investigates
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CHICAGO — There appears to be no end in sight to the avalanche of fraudulent unemployment filings in Illinois.

In the latest twist, the owner of a Northwest Side bridal shop called WGN Investigates after a stack of letters from the Illinois Department of Employment Security arrived at her business. The letters asked her to verify unemployment claims for 10 people.

But here’s the rub: They were sent to her address, but she didn’t recognize a single name. Not one person had worked at the bridal shop. There was even one in her mother’s name.

“She hasn’t worked in 40 years,” Kelly Modjeski Hamilton, owner of I Do Bridal Consignment in the city’s Dunning neighborhood, said.

WGN Investigates has previously reported how Illinois and other state have been slammed by fraudulent unemployment filings. IDES officials estimate they have blocked more than 1 million fake claims but haven’t yet revealed how many have slipped through or how much money has been lost.

“The states are so overwhelmed, they haven’t figured out how to keep this from happening,” Terry Savage, a personal finance expert, said.

Savage has been tracking trends in fake unemployment claims since the start of the pandemic. Savage said scammers are constantly coming up with different ways to trick the system, including using random addresses to file claims.

“They may take 25 names and put the same address,” Savage said. “That’s why people are suddenly getting a pile of letters addressed to unknown people at their house because the scammers have decided to make it a little harder for agencies to find out where the fraud is.”

Experts said scammers are routinely accessing people’s personal information, mostly like on the dark web where it ended up after a data breach. They then use it to file an unemployment claim.

After WGN Investigates informed IDES of the letters sent to the bridal shop, the agency investigated and confirmed the filings were fraudulent.

“Fraudsters are finding any avenue through which to get in the door and into the system,” an IDES spokeswoman wrote in an email. “They are continually modifying and evolving their schemes to try to crack state unemployment insurance agencies anti-fraud measures, and … [this] is just one of those schemes.”

If a letter from the IDES arrives at your home or business, and you don’t recognize the name or had not filed for unemployment, the agency recommends you report the fraud and destroy the letter.

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