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Illinois Residents Now Receiving Fraudulent Change-Of-Address Letters Thanks To Unemployment Scammers; Anti-Fraud Task Force Launched

CHICAGO (CBS) -- One of the biggest problems faced by the Illinois Department of Employment Security continues to be skyrocketing fraud claims.

In a new twist, some victims are getting change-of-address letters – even after their employers have told the state they are still on the job.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Thursday, the state said it is taking even more steps to cut down on the fraudulent claims with a multi-agency task force involving the Illinois Attorney General's office. Victims who have been left in limbo say action can't come fast enough.

"Well, I freaked out," said Sheila Bridge.

Bridge got a letter from the IDES last week. It came days after her employer told her they'd received a call about her unemployment claim – but she had never really even made one.

"They responded back immediately, saying that, 'It has to be fraud, because Sheila is actively working and would not have applied,'" Bridge said.

That did not stop the subsequent letter, nor did it stop Bridge's frantic attempts to reach someone at the IDES to flag the fraud – first, after the notification, and second, after she got the letter.

And yes, Bridge was put on a callback list. Six days later, she was still waiting.

"It's just really mind-boggling," Bridge said. "Makes me have sleepless nights."

Palatine resident William Helgren got that same change-of-address letter too. Even though it took a week, the IDES called him back with results.

"I was thrilled. The response was swift, seemed accurate, she knew exactly what she was doing, and the phone call took less than 10 minutes," Helgren said.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Attorney General's office and the FBI have launched a multi-agency task force aimed at cracking down on unemployment fraud.

"Fraud schemes can go across jurisdictions, and if you just leave it to each isolated jurisdiction to focus on this problem, we're not going to solve it," said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

The task force created a portal to share fraud information and look for patterns in Illinois and nationwide.

Kozlov asked Raoul how long it would realistically take to get the task force up and running.

"I would argue that we are up and running," Raoul said. "We feel confident that this collaboration will lead to capturing some bad actors."

Raoul said he is especially motivated to catch those bad actors, because he has been a victim of unemployment himself.

As of Thursday, there were not yet any results or arrests to report from the task force – despite being months and months into the fraudsters' playbook. But Raoul is confident that it will result in some arrests down the line.

IDES itself is also a member of the task force.

IDES says anyone who has been a victim of unemployment fraud should immediately report it via the IDES website or by calling 800-814-0513.

IDES has stopped more than 350,000 fraudulent claims so far, the release stated.

Information on how to protect yourself from identity theft is available on the Illinois Attorney General's website or by calling the attorney general's identity theft hotline at 1-866-999-5630.

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