CHICAGO (CBS) -- One Chicago area man is facing multiple fraudulent unemployment claims – and is the victim of a new kind of unemployment fraud that is crossing state lines and affecting several states.
CBS 2's Tara Molina was asking Tuesday night why nothing is in place to stop such a thing from happening.
It all started with some mail that came to Mike Lanners, which he easily could have tossed.
"It looks just like a normal piece of junk mail," Lanners said. "Could be somebody trying to sell you a campground location."
But Lanners is glad he kept the piece of mail. If it were not for the little white envelope, he never would have known someone successfully applied for unemployment benefits, in his name, in the state of Kentucky.
"I've never lived in Kentucky. I've never worked there. I own no property in Kentucky. I have no relatives in Kentucky," Lanners said.
So how did this happen – twice? The exact same thing happened in Illinois, where Lanners actually does live.
"I was shocked," he said.
Two fraudulent unemployment claims have gone out in Lanners' name in two states. Lanners is a retired man who has never lived outside of DuPage County and applied for unemployment just once – more than 30 years ago.
"I'm not the only one it's happening to," he said.
No, he's not. We found reports of people just like Lanners getting letters like the one he got - in New York, Colorado, and Rhode Island.
How? And why isn't anything in place to prevent this kind of out-of-state fraud?
We asked the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Kentucky's unemployment department, the Illinois Attorney General's office, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Spokespeople didn't directly address the issue.
IDES' spokesperson issued the following statement, emphasizing that it does not have an investigatory role:
"IDES is not an investigatory agency. As we flag and stop fraudulent accounts, we provide the necessary information to law enforcement bodies and cooperate with their investigations.
"I would refer you to law enforcement with questions regarding trends and investigation(s) into the national/international identity theft-related unemployment fraud, to the extent they are able to provide you with information or details in ongoing investigations.
"Fraudsters are trying any avenue through which to get in the door and into unemployment systems nationwide. Fraudulent claims are coming through many states, and IDES is stopping and tagging those claims as fraudulent as they come into the system using the enhanced detection methods the Department continues to use. As we've said before, we will not give away the blueprints to fraud detection, because we know fraudsters diligently watch news coverage on this topic, and use it to evolve their methods. We want to make it as difficult as possible for them to get through the door while still allowing legitimate claimants to file without additional impediments.
"There can be, and are, legitimate unemployment claims filed by a claimant in multiple states (an individual who worked in both states). More information about combined wage claims can be found in the UI Handbook."
A spokesperson for Kentucky's unemployment office didn't say how widespread the problem is, but said they just launched an online form as a way for people like Lanners to report fraud or identity theft:
"Widespread unemployment insurance fraud is plaguing states throughout the country, and hampering the efforts of UI agencies to get money into the right hands.
"If someone receives a notice of determination, or if their employer receives a notice of a claim being filed, it does not mean that money is being paid on the claim. The notice only states the amount of benefits a claimant is due to receive should the identity associated with that claim become verified and all other federal eligibility requirements are met.
"The Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) recently put measures in place to cut down the number fraudulent claims. All out-of-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims have a stop on them until they can be verified. A stop on the claim prevents it from proceeding further in the approval process.
"Last month, the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance launched a new online form on the Kentucky Career Center website for folks to report UI fraud and identity theft pertaining to UI claims. Amy Cubbage, general counsel for Governor Andy Beshear, provided information about the new form Feb. 25 during the Governor's press briefing.
"Investigators are busy working through those submissions, so please ask the individual who reported the fraudulent unemployment claim to you visit the website and provide OUI the necessary information."
As for Lanners, he has been able to shut down the local claim, but is still working on the one from Kentucky, for which he is using the new reporting form the spokesperson mentioned.
Lanners also reported the fraud to Lombard Police and got a police report. They said they hadn't heard anything like it before.
He said he hopes there is a federal fix soon.
"States have lost millions and millions of dollars to this fraud, and I think they're going to want their money back," Lanners said.
A spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General's Office didn't address this fraud specifically either, only telling us they're working closely with law enforcement to target all fraud:
"We are certainly aware of the various forms of unemployment insurance benefits fraud, which is why Attorney General Raoul formed the Attorney General's Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud. We are working closely with the FBI, law enforcement agencies and other partners to evaluate complaints received from the Illinois Department of Labor and Illinois Department of Employment Security. The Attorney General encourages anyone who has been a victim of unemployment insurance benefits fraud to contact the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Individuals who believe they are a victim of identity theft should call the Attorney General's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 or file a complaint on the Attorney General's website."
We still haven't heard back from the Department of Labor on this request.
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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