CHICAGO (CBS) -- Emails claiming to be from the Illinois Department of Employment Security but aren't can give thieves access to all of a person's personal information with one click. And now it's not just people on unemployment receiving them.
CBS 2's Tara Molina is Working for Chicago digging into the scam and getting answers. Someone reached out to her questioning the letter to ask if the emails that seemed to be coming from IDES were legitimate.
The answer is no. And, thankfully, CBS 2 was able to help some people. But others lost access to their accounts and benefits because of this.
With a quick glance, the emails could seem real. The logo looks right, but not with a closer look.
JoEllen Gianfrancisco is glad she did. She sent the email to Molina before clicking a thing, just to be safe, and because she could not get ahold of anyone at the state for help.
"You've been following this since the beginning of the pandemic, so that's when I reached out to you," she said.
She's retired and isn't collecting unemployment. At first, she worried this meant someone fraudulently applied in her name, but this is a whole other kind of scam -- phishing.
"The email alone looked kind of fishy," she said.
Perry Turner wishes he noticed the same red flag when he got an email like hers, too.
"I clicked on that and unknowingly fell for it and filled it all out," he said.
That allowed scammers access his account.
"The password was changed, and my direct deposit for my unemployment was changed," he said.
Weeks later, he told us he is still locked out with no benefits and no callback from IDES.
"I don't know what to do at this point," he said.
CBS 2 reached out to the state, and a spokesperson confirmed this is a phishing scheme:
This is a phishing scheme.
If you look at the sender's address (email@example.com), you'll notice it is not from IDES or a state of Illinois email address. Additionally, the information contained in the body of the email referring to an additional weekly $1400 supplemental payment is inaccurate. As you're aware, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act extended the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program to claimants to receive an additional $300 per week to their benefit payment(s). $1400 was the amount individuals received as a result of the last federal stimulus payment, which was paid directly to individuals via the US Treasury, not through state unemployment agencies.
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. IDES shares information with law enforcement to support law enforcement investigations. 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.
After a closer look at the email, it is clear the address it was sent from is not a state email address. And the text says "Division of Employment Security," not Department of Employment Security. And it is offering money that may get someone to click but is not available right now as an unemployment benefit.
Gianfrancisco's warning for people relying on state benefits and people who aren't is do not click.
"Make sure you don't give out any of your personal information," she said.
CBS 2 is told identity theft-related unemployment fraud continues to plague the state's system. These phishing scams are just another example.
Illinois is not the only state dealing with the scams. The State of Indiana just sent out the following warning about this exact issue. It's big there, too.
Attorney General Todd Rokita is partnering with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to warn Hoosiers about a phishing scam involving unemployment benefits. Scammers are sending text messages asking Hoosiers to verify their identity by clicking on a link. Clicking the link may give scammers access to your personal data.
"We appreciate the opportunity to partner with state agencies to encourage Hoosiers to be vigilant in protecting their personal information," Attorney General Todd Rokita said. "Scammers are always coming up with new ways to try to steal your identity and your money. If you receive a text message asking to verify your eligibility for unemployment benefits, I urge you to delete the message and file a report both with my office and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development."
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development will never send a text message to verify your eligibility for unemployment benefits.
"The fact that scammers are now contacting Hoosiers directly via text message shows just how far they will go in their attempts to steal personal information," Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said. "DWD has many prevention and detection tools in place to thwart as much fraudulent activity as possible, but individuals still should take the necessary steps to protect their personal information."
If you have received a suspicious text message or believe you may have been a victim of fraud, contact the Attorney General's Data Privacy and ID Theft section at indianaconsumer.com, and also contact the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
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