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Chicago Woman Lost Thousands To Unemployment Scammer, And She Wants To Know Why More Isn't Being Done To Get Money Back

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits were stolen by a local scammer, and nothing was done to stop them.

CBS 2's Tara Molina is Working for Chicago to follow up on this fraud case, and asked why more is not being done to get that state money back – with fraud an issue not only plaguing the state's system, but costing big money.

We introduced you to Frances a couple weeks ago. A victim of unemployment fraud, more than once now, she still doesn't want to share her last name - in an effort to protect her identity.

Her unemployment money was cleared out by a scammer last month, who likely cloned her unemployment debit card that she says never left her possession.

"I hide it underneath my wig," Frances said on July 16.

She got some help, after our last story aired, and her benefits were reinstated, but she says this isn't even close to over for her yet.

"I want justice done," Frances said. "I want to file criminal charges."

She said she is waiting for the state to make an effort to catch the scammer that cleared her out.

"I'm going to be just like a pit bull; just like a bulldog," France said. "I'm just going to keep calling and calling and calling and calling."

Those dogged calls led to some useful information. Frances told us she took notes as a bank worker gave her info on what ATMs the scammer used in Chicago.

The first spot the scammer hit was a Chase Bank on Broadway and Hollywood Avenue in Edgewater.

We mapped out the banks and dollar amounts Frances said she got over the phone. A total of $1,003 was taken at that first bank, and the same amount was taken twice at a Citibank a couple miles away. At the last stop at a Wintrust Bank in Rogers park, her last $483 was taken.

Banks Used By Unemployment Scammer
(Credit: CBS 2)

"I'm thinking about the probably hundreds of other people they scamming," Frances said.

We asked the Illinois Department of Employment Security what is being done to recoup money in cases like these - especially when the scammer is local.

We know they won't speak to specific cases, but they also wouldn't address that question.

And still, despite our repeat requests, IDES has not put a number on the amount of money the state has lost to scammers and fraudsters.

For this story, Molina asked IDES the following questions:

• "Is Key Bank involved in sharing information with the state (IDES) and the police to hold those behind theft like this accountable?"

• "With the theft reportedly happening locally, according to the bank, does IDES encourage authorities in-state to pursue it in an effort to recoup the money?"

• "What's being done to recoup money lost to scammers locally?"

An IDES spokesperson responded: "I'm not sure what information I can provide to you related to your initial inquiry. If there's something to share, I'll pass along."

Meanwhile, all Key Bank would tell us was that they are working with authorities on reports of fraud.

"We cannot discuss the specifics of an ongoing investigation, but I can tell you we are working with state and federal law enforcement on reports of fraud," Key Bank spokeswoman Kimberly Kowalski said in a statement.

But Frances said she is the one who followed up on her police report - giving CPD detectives, who confirmed they're working on the case - all of the information about the ATM withdrawals, dates and times. Police said she told them the withdrawals happened between July 1 and July 3.

"This is right here in Chicago. We know the bank," Frances said. "They know the address to the bank."

She added, "I want this person off the street."

Still Thursday night, there was no number and no cost from the state on the fraud issue.

There was also no information on the efforts to crack down on local scammers like in Frances' case.

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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