CHICAGO (CBS) — The already-overwhelmed Illinois Department of Employment Security is dealing with another major issue that some fear could cause even longer delays for people desperately needing help.

We reported on Wednesday that the state’s system was one of many hit by a nationwide fraud scheme – potentially exposing people’s private information even if they never applied for unemployment.

Among the victims was state Rep. Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer (D-Chicago), representing the 12th House District, who said he received an unemployment benefits debit card he never asked for just Wednesday.

“I was watching the governor’s press conference on TV, and he was talking about people who were receiving debit cards that they didn’t request. I opened mail, and what do you know? Here you go. My debit card from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. It says, ‘Your Illinois Department of Employment Security prepaid debit card issued by KeyBank,’” Pizer told CBS 2’s Irika Sargent. “I did not apply for unemployment insurance, and here you go.”

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Pizer immediately tried to report what happened to IDES.

“Listening to the governor, he said call the 800 number and go online and file and lodge a claim, which I tried to call IDES, and the first seven times, I couldn’t get through. I got a busy signal,” he said. “The eighth time, I got through and followed various prompts, and was able to give my name and my cellphone number, and the reason why I was calling, and they said they would get back to me within 24 hours. This was yesterday. I haven’t heard back from them yet. I also went online and filed a claim as they told me to online.”

Pizer said his own experience only intensifies concerns he already had from people who need help with the Illinois unemployment system.

“I’m very concerned about it. I mean, for months, my office has been inundated with constituents calling, often desperate and so frustrated, because they are out of work. They need this money to keep food on their table and a roof over their heads” and are now falling victim to fraud, he said.


Pizer said IDES needs to be taking more action than it is.

“It’s been very frustrating for me and my constituents. We have been trying to work with IDES and the governor’s office, and they have basically told us it’s up to our constituents to call IDES directly. They’ve given us very limited circumstances where we’re able to get involved. So it’s been a bit frustrating for us,” he said. “Obviously, there needs to be more resources put towards this problem, because we’re not seeing that it’s getting any better.”

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.