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Working For Chicago: Fighting Hackers Who Want IDES Money

CHICAGO (CBS) --  IDES admits it's one of several state employment systems hit by a nationwide fraud scheme involving the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program.

CBS 2 first started exposing cases of IDES unemployment fraud last month and heard from hundreds of victims since. CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot has the story of one man's account of how he got unemployment benefits he never applied for. It involves the debit cards the state uses to distribute benefits.

Hackers file unemployment claims using stolen identities, and then try to get the payment method switched from your debit card to their direct deposit.

David Keating said he received this letter with a KeyBank debit card in it from the Illinois Department of Employment Services just this past Friday.

"I was shocked because I haven't worked in 13 years," Keating said. "I just started collecting Social Security when I was 62 and so I would think the government would know that and not send me this card."

The retired Army veteran and senior citizen is now among 200 people who have reached out to CBS 2 since June. Each person had the same story. They receive a debit card in their name with unemployment benefits they never applied for.

Just last week, CBS 2 brought you the story of Jeffery Swiok. He's been retired for years, but he got a debit card in the mail.

"We all know there's a lot of identity fraud out there," Swiok said.

He shut down the fraudulent account and the claim by calling KeyBank and making numerous calls and sending emails to IDES and state officials.

Keating called IDES and left a voice message on its automated system last Friday. He still hasn't heard back, so he took an additional step while waiting.

"I went on Experian and froze my account, just like you suggested, and there was nothing taken out on it. There was no credit checks done or anything, but I froze it anyway," Keating said.

The 68-year-old trucking company retiree said among the things concerning him about this fraud: those who are in great need of the pandemic unemployment assistance.

"I was kind of afraid I might get in trouble somehow. They're giving it to me and somebody who needs it is not getting it," Keating said.

Governor JB Pritzker acknowledged widespread IDES fraud and an investigation is underway to make sure the right people are getting their benefits.

He added that if someone has not filed a claim, but has received a letter and debit card from IDES, they are a potential target of fraud.

Anyone who has gone through this possible fraud attempt is asked to call IDES at 800-814-0513.

The CBS 2 Investigators asked IDES about the widespread fraud issue back in June, asking about how many fraud complaints they received. IDES didn't release numbers, only saying people can report fraud to IDES.


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