CHICAGO (CBS) — People with jobs email the CBS 2 Investigators all the time saying they’ve been approved for unemployment benefits.
What’s really happening is they’re victims of identity theft and unemployment fraud.
CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker spoke with one woman who’s in that boat now, and another who finally reached the right people and got the attention of federal investigators.
Laurie Pena read the UI Finding letter she recently received from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. It said, “Last day I worked was February 2020 and that I was laid off for lack of work. It says my weekly benefit is $484.”
Only thing is, Pena didn’t apply for benefits. She’s a registered nurse “since 1988 – 32 years,” she explained.
Pena is a victim of identity theft. Someone used her personal information and filed for unemployment. She’s been calling Illinois Department of Employment Security for days trying to report the fraud.
“I don’t know where to go from here,” said Pena.
But another woman does.
“I’m so happy,” said Traci Weathers.
We told you her story a month ago. She too, was the victim of unemployment fraud, approved for $484 she didn’t apply for.
“This has been an ordeal,” she said.
Weathers is smiling now because her fraud case is finally getting attention after two months of trying to be heard.
Like most victims, she filed a fraud complaint online with the IDES. But she also sent an email to Gov. JB Pritzker’s office and got a reply.
“Stating that they knew what was going on and someone would notify me from IDES, but they couldn’t give me a definitive time,” she said.
Weathers then filed an ID theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. That ultimately got her a call from an FBI agent.
“He asked me if I knew four individuals. He mentioned four names, but I’ve never heard of these people. But they are digging into it,” she said.
In addition, Weathers reached out to her U.S. representative, Mike Quigley (D-Illinois). His office put her in touch with her state representatives and flagged her case for them. Her state senator promised to put her in touch with someone from IDES.
However, before she got a call from IDES she got a Determination Letter, saying she should never have received benefits and she needs to repay $4,336.
“I said, what?!” Weathers said
The overpayment notice included an 800 number – but not the one everybody’s been calling, getting no answer and hang ups.
This new number (800-245-9762) connects callers to the Benefits Collection Department.
“She answered right away,” Weather said. “She looked at my files and said, ‘I understand it’s a fraudulent claim.’”
Weathers was told to file a police report and fax a copy to IDES. She also faxed the agency copies of the FTC complaint, summaries of conversations she had with the FBI and every email she sent and received from U.S., state, and local politicians.
“I just wanted proof that I was not the person who filed the unemployment claim,” said Weathers.
She is now asking IDES for confirmation of what she was told on the phone, “stating this was a fraudulent claim and I do not owe any monies to IDES.”
That’s something Laurie Pena would also love to hear.
“I know they’re pretty overwhelmed. They need to do a better job to make sure these claims are legit,” said Pena.