CHICAGO (CBS) — Widespread fraud with unemployment benefits in Illinois and throughout the country is being investigated, both on the state and national level.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program “was passed by Congress in the spring, and provides benefits to independent contractors and 1099 workers,” Pritzker said. “This is a brand new program that the federal government rushed to develop, and then left each state to create its own separate system. As a result, there were massive holes for illegal fraudsters to steal federal dollars from taxpayers.”

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The governor said the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General saw a huge increase in fraud cases. Pritzker said the state is cooperating fully with the federal government on the problem.

CBS 2 has heard from hundred of victims regarding their unemployment benefits, both from those who have yet to receive their IDES payments to individuals who got debit cards but never applied for benefits.

“The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is working extensively to provide all necessary information to the Illinois Attorney General, local police and all engaged prosecutorial forces. In addition to working with law enforcement IDES is also taking every action to track down and cut off fraudulent claims, reviewing flagged files to identify commonalities and patterns,” Pritzker said. “The highly experienced money launderers who have perpetrated these crimes, use the same payment methods that regular filers do for that reason that IDES can’t simply cut off. Common dispersal mechanisms that also serve as lifelines for innocent users.”

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He said IDES has identified over 120,000 counts of unemployment insurance fraud. Pritzker said there are clues to see whether you’ve been a target for fraud.

“An individual who has not filed an unemployment claim but has received a debit card, or an unemployment insurance letter in the mail, has likely been a target of this fraud,” Pritzker said.

If that’s happened, individuals are urged to the IDES website ( and go to the link that says report fraud and identity theft and fill out the contact form located there.

“You do not need to call the agency if you don’t hear back immediately,” Prtizker said. “IDES will get back to you in the order of submission. And in the meantime, there’s a link on the IDS fraud reporting page to get your own free credit report.”

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