CHICAGO (CBS) — For months, CBS 2 has been Working for Chicago, exposing systematic problems at IDES that have prevented people from getting the help they need.

Months after the CBS 2 Investigators uncovered an unemployment scam, targeting people’s identities and cash, we’re learning just how big the problem is.

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CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports from the IDES center in Lincoln Square. At least 120,000 fraudulent claims in Illinois alone. And in every case, most likely a stolen Social Security number led to the crime.

Thousands have waited months to receive their Illinois unemployment benefits, but not Dale Pocius from Round Lake.

“I received a notice from unemployment department saying they wanted me to update my claim,” Pocius said.

Here’s the problem: The almost 65-year-old retiree and father of two adult daughters never applied, and was the victim of fraud.

“I actually saw the record they already drew $3,500 and they only opened the claim one month ago,” Pocius said.

The state admits there’s a widespread problem, identifying over 120,000 counts of unemployment insurance fraud. Governor JB Pritzker said in the rush to develop systems, state by state, to handle pandemic related claim. Holes were created allowing illegal fraudsters to steal federal dollars from taxpayers.

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“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 the target of this fraud,” the governor said.

Because these criminals most likely have stolen Social Security numbers, the state recommends victims place both a fraud alert and a credit freeze on their credit reports. They also say to contact IDES immediately.

“I am worried about my credit rating. I am worried I could be blamed for this somehow,” Pocius said.

Pocius was able to report his fraud. Three weeks later, he’s still waiting to hear about a resolution from the same IDES system that’s plagued by a call center with a well documented and massively inefficient track record. Trying to resolve the situation has not been easy.

“It’s ridiculous. Because you have to be by your phone. And if you are not by your phone, you have to register for another phone call,” Pocius said. “For someone to defraud me like this, I am somewhat angry but what can I do about it?”

This is the second time in the pandemic the state has had to address a massive identity breach in the unemployment system. Last May, IDES began informing over 32,000 applicants their personal information may have been compromised because of what they called at the time a glitch.

It adds insult to injury for people just trying to get by in very difficult times.

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