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Fraudsters May Be Targeting Seniors By Applying For Illinois Unemployment Debit Cards In Their Names

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As many wait for unemployment benefits or the debits cards they need to access that money, it turns out some people are getting those cards in the mail when they never even applied for unemployment.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported Wednesday night, it is a new form of identity theft, and fraudsters may be targeting seniors.

Jeffery Cwiok had no idea someone applied for unemployment benefits in his name until he opened up the debit card sent to his house. He was able to stop the fraudster right away, but worries other seniors won't be.

"I'm really concerned for other seniors," he said. "I'm still concerned for me."

Cwiok has been retired for years, and said he never filed for unemployment benefits.

So, getting the debit card in the mail, now, was surprising to say the least.

"It feels like a credit card. (It says), 'Here is your Illinois Department of Employment Security debit card,'" Cwiok said. "I know there's a lot of identity fraud out there."

Still a registered, certified public accountant, Cwiok said he knew the possible ramifications of the fraudulent claim down the line.

"Certain unemployment benefits are taxable," he said.

So he did everything in his power to shut it down immediately, without long waits for help from IDES.

"I started by calling KeyBank," which administers the cards, he said.

And after several more calls and emails to the Illinois Department of Employment Security and state officials, eventually, Cwiok was able to shut down the account and the claim before the person behind it could have a card sent to another address.

He learned they had already changed the address in the state's system.

Cwiok is worried others won't make the same moves in time, or even realize what the card means when it comes in the mail.

That led to more calls to Cwiok's Illinois state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray's office.

"She is getting a lot of complaints from seniors," Cwiok said.

And that is what Stava-Murray (D-Downers Grove) said when Molina followed up with her Wednesday. Stava-Murray said her office is receiving calls from seniors with the exact same problem, and it's an issue across the state.

So Cwiok hopes his story will serve as a warning.

"I'm going to contact AARP so they can put something in their publication for other seniors," he said.

KeyBank spokeswoman Kimberly Kowalski released the following statement:

"We are working closely with state departments in the prevention of fraud. At this time, we are not aware of unemployment scams specifically targeting seniors. If an individual believes they have fallen victim to an unemployment related fraud, they should contact their state labor department and local law enforcement."

On Wednesday night, representatives of the Illinois Department of Employment Security still had not responded to the requests Molina made for more information. She first made those requests last night.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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