By Megan Hickey

CHICAGO (CBS) — In Illinois more than 44,000 residents joined the more than one million who have filed for unemployment in the state.

But there’s also a growing number of people who go to apply, only to find out an impostor has already applied for them.

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CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has more on the scam.

It’s one thing to find out your identity’s been stolen, and it’s even worse to find out it’s keeping you from the unemployment check that you need to pay your bills.

“We are temporarily closed due to unforeseen circumstances.”

It’s the message that Anika Johnson is sick of.

“Our current wait time is approximately 1,500 minutes.”

Trying to sort out her current identity fraud nightmare. She was was one 100 people laid of from her healthcare company in April. But when she went to apply for unemployment benefits through the IDES office…

“They said call the 1-800 number,” Johnson said.

Eventually an employee on the phone told her…

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“This seems to be you, but it says you applied on but somebody applied on May 25, 2020. I’m like no, that’s why I’m trying to apply now.”

Since then she’s been unable to get through to the right person to correct the error. And the bills are piling up.

“I can’t even file,” Johnson said.

Another viewer in Matteson told CBS 2 her child support account alerted her to the scheme.

“There was a payment that was made on my behalf via unemployment,” said the woman who added that the money was garnished from a payment taken out in her name.

The scammer had received a total of $2,000. And the address that the person gave IDES was on a block in Auburn Gresham. CBS 2 checked it out and the address doesn’t exist.

CBS 2 asked IDES how often they’re getting fraud complaints like these. A spokesperson said the data “is not readily available.”

But the spokesperson added there are some things they do to try to stop it, including cross matching claimant information against wage records reported by employers, using new hire reports and tax returns.

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IDES added it is active in the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, which cross matches information with other states.

Megan Hickey