CHICAGO (CBS) -- Since the start of the pandemic, CBS 2 has been Working for Chicago, tackling delays and fraud within the state's unemployment system.
But a new issue was shocking. IDES sent the names and Social Security numbers of 11 random people to a random guy in the suburbs. CBS 2's Chris Tye reports the man tried to tell the state's unemployment department, but no one there would listen.
CBS 2 has reported on victims of identity theft. The state's replies often take weeks. The change in power at the department and a pledge by the governor to reform the unemployment office.
But this problem was new. One man was sent 11 letters from the state with the names and nine magic numbers we are all told time again to keep very close to the vest.
"It's just wrong. It's every kind of wrong."
That wrong arrived right in Joe Urbauer mailbox last Friday. One at a time, he opened 11 pieces of mystery mail.
"I was in disbelief," Urbauer said.
Each addressed to him from the state's unemployment office or IDES. With some curious content.
"So, I have 11 letters in this envelope with different peoples names and different peoples Social Security numbers," Urbauer said.
The letters were intended for Illinoisans: Abed, Frances, Karen, Laura, Martin and six others. CBS 2 blacked out their full names and Social Security numbers. The state was writing to alert them because they were the victims of unemployment fraud. So, in an effort to alert them to a scam, the state printed out, mis-mailed and revealed private data that would've been like Christmas to crooks.
"I would be irate," Urbauer said. "If I was that type of person, I could use these. I could go out and start opening credit cards. I could go out and try to get loans. I could go to get bank accounts. I'm not that type of person."
He called IDES to report the problem.
"I can't even leave a message to them to say 'hey, you guys sent me other people's Social Security number.' You can't speak to a human being," Urbauer said.
CBS 2 asked IDES the questions Joe wanted answered: How did this happen? Why did this happen? An agency spokesperson didn't reveal much, adding that it couldn't promise that it won't happen again and that it couldn't point out how the problem happened in the first place.
This spring, Joe was an identity theft victim himself. This winter he's protecting victims, righting the state's wrongs while preventing the holidays from becoming a headache for 11 Illinois strangers.
"If it gets into the wrong hands, that could be very, very bad," Urbauer said, who added that unfortunately, he learned on Tuesday that his sister learned she was a victim of identity theft.
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