Illinois unemployment system experiencing unprecedented fraud, IDES acting director says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker discussed fraud in Illinois' unemployment system on Monday, specifically addressing schemes that target those left out of work by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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There have been thousands of complaints about unemployment fraud that have come in to the attorney general's office and countless others to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. But there does not seem to be much that can be done about it leaving victims waiting and hurting.

Chicagoan Tierra Russell said she was expecting $27,000 of PUA, pandemic unemployment assistance, on a bank card from the state. But then she got notified she was the victim of fraud, likely a cyberhacker who previously stole her identity and then the unemployment money.

"This is become a nightmare," Russell said. "I have a 2-year-old child, like I can't pay my bills."

WATCH: IDES acting director discusses unemployment fraud

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Acting Director of IDES Kristin Richards said IDES implemented a call-back model to improve callers seeking support.

"IDES is experiencing fraud in an order of magnitude we've never seen before," said Kristin Richards, Acting Director Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Richards said it's a nationwide problem, but she added the department has increased staff at call centers and tries to respond within seven to 14 days.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said his office has received 850 written complaints and 4,000 calls about fraud.

WATCH: IL AG offers tips to prevent unemployment fraud

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There is a wide spread of frauds and scams connected to COVID-19 economic uncertainty, according to Kwame Raoul, Ill. attorneyy general.

"These investigations can take time and people need to act to protect their personal financial information now," Raoul said, urging people to monitor their credit reports, request fraud alerts and to review all their financial accounts closely.

"The PUA and the systems that were created by the federal government, you know, are just ripe for fraud," said Governor JB Pritzker.

It's a problem that is beyond frustrating for victims like Tierra Russell.

"You know, I'm ready to give up because this is something I have been fighting," she said. "I haven't done anything wrong and these are the circumstances that unfortunately, I'm dealt with at the moment, but nothing's happening."
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