CHICAGO (WLS) -- After dealing with the stress of losing their jobs, some on unemployment said their funds are being hacked and money is being stolen.
Some have had phone checks diverted to different banks by thieves.
"I can make sense of what happened, but how can we fix this so it won't happen to anyone else?" said Valerie, a financial analyst in Illinois who is currently unemployed due to the pandemic. She asked that we not use her last name because she's a victim of identity theft. "Beyond the money we have to live knowing our information is out there."
Valerie said she realized someone changed her password in the state unemployment application system and diverted her unemployment check to a different bank, not the one she had set up online.
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"Someone had gone into the system and changed my bank, then all of a sudden, I was locked out of IDES," she said.
The same thing happened to Illinois resident Shawna, who also asked to use her first name only.
"It was going to a different bank. That's when I realized my deposit info had changed," she said.
Both women called IDES, which told them it is investigating. The ABC7 I-Team has received numerous complaints about this problem in just the last few weeks.
So we reached out to the state to ask, what is going on?
IDES told the I-Team they cannot comment on individual cases and said "This type of fraudulent activity does occur" adding that "identity theft-related unemployment fraud has been rampant across the country during the pandemic, and this is another outcome of that type of fraud, particularly as it relates to increased phishing schemes across various platforms (email, text, social media message)".
IDES further stated that this fraud "is often the result of individuals having weak security measures in place, or sharing information about their claim online."
Both women said they take extra precautions when it comes to their personal information.
"I'm really vigilant. I want them to enhance their security, so this can't happen. People that are on unemployment are really in dire need," said Shawna.
The I-Team has talked to experts who say it is the state that should be increasing its security measures to prevent fraud, including adding the common feature of two-factor authentication.
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"Based upon the type of work I do, I did a detailed listing of what was happening with IDES, with my IDES account," said Valerie.
And although she never handed out information, she thinks she was targeted by fraudsters calling her, posing as agents from IDES. She said the phone number even showed up as IDES on her phone.
"They would call me two to three times a day laughing on the phone," she said.
IDES said if you are suspicious of the caller, ask to re-schedule your call in the next couple of days.
Both women filed police reports, contacted their credit bureaus and filed complaints with the federal trade commission.
If you experience fraud, report it to them immediately so IDES can investigate.
IDES told the I-Team that the public needs to be extra vigilant right now as they're seeing is a resurgence in fraud. Scammers are making last minute attempts as the federal unemployment benefits will be ending soon.
This type of fraudulent activity does occur, and is often the result of individuals having weak security measures in place, or sharing information about their claim online. Simply put, individuals should keep their IDES account information private, and use unique, complex passwords for their log-in. However, as you know, identity theft-related unemployment fraud has been rampant across the country during the pandemic, and this is another outcome of that type of fraud, particularly as it relates to increased phishing schemes across various platforms (email, text, social media message).
Individuals who receive unusual correspondence from an entity claiming to be IDES (emails, text messages, social media messages, etc.) should not click on the link(s) provided. Doing so will allow the fraudster(s) access to personal information, which can result in individuals compromising the safety of their personal information and accounts. Individuals should check the source of the correspondence (the sender), the information contained in the correspondence, and once confirming it is a phishing scheme, delete the correspondence. Never click on any link you receive (either via email, text, social media message) if you do not and cannot trust the sender.
Individuals should always take steps to enhance their cyber security when and where possible and keep personally identifiable information as secured as possible. If claimants do experience this type of fraud, they should contact the Department immediately to report it. An IDES representative will investigate the issue and work with the claimant for a resolution when possible.
More information about how to report fraud and information about phishing schemes can be found on the Department's and FTC's website, respectively.