IDES fraud scheme: Some victims unable to access unemployment benefits

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC 7 I-Team uncovered a new problem related to the widespread unemployment scam in Illinois.

Some fraud victims are finding themselves out of luck when they need to access unemployment benefits.

"So you know, at this point is just like I'm pulling my hair out, you know, trying to figure out who I can talk to," complained Keiarah Miller, a resident of the West Chatham neighborhood.

Miller said a scammer filed an unemployment claim in her name. The thief has already cashed in on $2,152. The money went into an account that's not hers.

To make matters worse, Miller is now in need of unemployment assistance and cannot file a claim.

"Now is the time that I actually have to file for unemployment, and I can't because of this other case that's open on my behalf," she said.

Miler filed a police report, but says she can't get through to anyone at the Illinois Department of Employment Security and can't get a call back through the new "callback system," where she has left her number and has been placed in a queue.

IDES says calls are returned in the order in which they are received.

"I have three children, single mother. I work very hard, you know, this is just a bad situation, bad timing, bad everything, so you know I'm just, I don't really know what to do, but it's definitely an emergency," Miller told the I-Team.

RELATED: Some report Illinois unemployment benefits are going into accounts they know nothing about
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"I know nothing about where my funds had been deposited, and then it was numbness, I don't know what account this is but it's not mine."

Like many of the potential scam victims, Miller also received an unemployment debit card, which she did not activate.

The I-Team supplied IDES with Miller's documents and asked what people should do if they are in her situation.

IDES said it can't comment on specific claimants but "A person who has discovered they have had an unemployment claim filed in their name but are in need of filing a legitimate claim for themselves ... needs to call IDES at 800.814.0513 or 800.244.5631 to report the fraud and speak with a claims rep to get their claim filed," adding that victims should be prepared to provide a photo ID and a copy of their Social Security Card.

On Wednesday Gov. JB Pritzker blamed most fraud on the "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance" portal, which provides benefits to independent contractors.

RELATED: IL unemployment IDES debit cards: Fraudsters may have used direct deposit to carry out scheme

The state says since PUA launched in May, there have been over 120,000 counts of fraud; 107,000 were in the PUA system.

"This is a brand new program that the federal government rushed to develop, and then left each state to create its own separate system. As a result, there were massive holes for illegal fraudsters to steal federal dollars from taxpayers across the country," Pritzker said Wednesday.

Miller is not a PUA claimant, but is one of thousands of out-of-work employees now affected by this scam.

"Honestly makes me feel violated, very violated, because I don't give my social, you know, any of my personal information to anyone," she said.

Miller is one of dozens of people who have been calling the I-Team, saying they cannot get through to IDES to report unemployment scam problems.
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