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New Phishing Scam Involving Emails, Texts Targets People Who Are Out Of Work In Illinois

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A new scam has surfaced targeting people who are out of work.

CBS 2's Tara Molina has investigated these issues for more than a year now, and on Thursday, she talked to an expert who has a warning about a growing number of fake emails and texts.

We've investigated phishing before, but with texts and more elaborate emails targeting a specific group of people, we're told the state is still being hit with a big percentage of fake claims.

"They found a way to come back," said Ofer Eckstein.

Eckstein is talking about scammers – and the most recent phishing schemes that he said are targeting those who are unemployed now or were unemployed at some point during the pandemic in the form of emails and a text messages. The schemes are contributing to the continued fraud problem.


"We're getting fraudulent claims again at levels that are not normal," Eckstein said. "I think right now, it's all due to phishing."



A partner at Personnel Planners - a third-party vendor that helps clients process unemployment claims - Ofer has a firm grip on the fraud issue here in Illinois.

Just last week, he said, "over 20 percent of our claims were fraudulent."

That's right, over 20 percent. One specific email stands out to him.

"It was so good," Eckstein said. "I bet you a lot of people fell for it."

We know the problem is bigger. We've tracked it for months, with another scam email just sent to our station's tip line. Others have come in from people who've fallen for them.

"I don't know what to do at this point," said Perry Turner, who fell for a phishing scam.

So what is the state doing about it? We asked.

A spokesperson for IDES confirmed what we sent their way were scams, calling them confirmation that bad actors are still working to defraud unemployment insurance systems nationwide. IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco issued the following statement:

"This is a phishing scheme and is confirmation that bad actors are still doing their best to defraud unemployment insurance systems nationwide. No one is immune to becoming a victim of a phishing scheme.

"Individuals who receive this type of email should not click on the link provided. Doing so will allow the fraudster(s) access to personal information. Individuals should check the source of the email (the sender), the information contained in the email, and once confirming it is a phishing scheme, delete the email. Never click on any link you receive (either via text or email) if you do not and cannot trust the sender.

"As you know, identity theft-related unemployment fraud has been rampant around the country. The Department shares information with law enforcement to support law enforcement investigations, but, as we've stated before, IDES is not an investigatory or prosecutorial body. Any information about investigations into, or information about schemes of this nature, should be posed to law enforcement. The extent to which law enforcement or prosecutorial bodies can comment these investigations should be posed to them as well.

"IDES will continue to provide reminders to claimants about the importance of enhancing their accounts by using complex passwords and securing information they share online."

Cisco did not say exactly what the IDES doing to combat this kind of fraud.

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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