PLAINFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- A man in Plainfield says he couldn't get unemployment benefits because a stranger had already applied for the money using his name.
Harold Tyler is a fitness instructor and he thought filing for unemployment would be fairly easy. But, he said a scammer beat him to the punch and got his unemployment money before he could even apply.
Tyler has dedicated his life to helping people get in shape, but in November of last year, he said he lost his job due to gym closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was a sad moment, an unbelievable moment because I'd been there for 28 years," he said.
Tyler said he went on the Illinois Department of Employment Security's website and made several attempts to apply for benefits, but he couldn't.
After speaking to an IDES representative, he said he learned that someone had already applied for unemployment using his name.
"It stunned me," Tyler said. "I haven't filed a claim at all. I can't even register to file a claim...They gave me the last four numbers of the bank account, which didn't match mine. They even had the wrong address in there."
Tyler said he thought his name would be cleared quickly after providing all of the information IDES requested to prove his identity. He said that didn't happen.
"I have had three people tell me if not four that they were going to forward my information over to their supervisor," he said. "Now, I don't know what that means or what that looks like. All I know is, I feel I am not getting the help I deserve to get."
It's a problem the ABC7 I-Team has become all too familiar with, hearing from dozens of people across the state who have fallen victim to unemployment fraud.
IDES has been accused of not handling the cases quickly. IDES said if someone believes they're the victim of fraud...their fraud division will conduct an "investigation and payment tracer" to determine if payment was sent.
IDES said these investigations can take time because they have to subpoena banking information.
Tyler said with so many unemployment fraud cases in Illinois, IDES should have a system in place by now to get people the money they need as soon as possible.
"I pay my taxes," he said. "I do what I'm supposed to do. I expect the state of Illinois to have my back in a time like this...Give me the benefits that I'm due! That's all I'm asking.
About a week after the ABC7 I-Team reached out, Tyler said he finally received his unemployment benefits and while he's not happy that it took the state six weeks, he's thankful to be able to pay his bills and move forward.
IDES said if you're a victim of unemployment fraud. you should contact them immediately and be prepared to provide your photo ID and a copy of your social security card during the investigation process.
IDES released a statement saying, "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 need to contact IDES at 800.814.0513 to report the fraud and speak with a claims rep to get their claim filed. Claimants in this situation should be prepared to provide a photo ID and a copy of their Social Security Card during this process.
"If a claimant believes they have experienced fraud that has resulted in their benefit payment(s) diverted, the IDES fraud division will conduct an investigation and payment tracer to determine if benefit payment was sent out or not. If the investigation leads to the conclusion that a person's account information has been changed and payment was diverted elsewhere, payment will be reissued to the affected claimant. However, it is important to note and understand that these investigations can take quite some time to complete due to the need to subpoena banking information from financial institutions.
"I would refer you to the USDOL OIG or to contact law enforcement bodies involved with investigating the nationwide unemployment fraud schemes; these bodies use the information IDES, and all other state unemployment agencies, provide to investigate and draw connections."
IDES fraud: Plainfield man says scammer stole his unemployment benefits, couldn't get help from state
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