CHICAGO (CBS) — Philip Woodson opened the mail to find out someone else had applied for unemployment benefits in his name.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina is Working for Chicago and bringing concerns to the Illinois Department of Employment Security for answers, in our continuing investigation into statewide unemployment fraud issues.

Woodson told Molina he never would have known he was a victim of fraud if it were not for the letter he got.

The letter was sent to his home address, letting him know he had been approved for unemployment benefits. But he he never applied for those benefits.

 

Woodson reached the state, and told Molina he can’t afford to wait weeks for a callback.

“I’m scared to death,” Woodson said.

His fear and anxiety started with that letter from the state.

“The last day working was April 20th, 2020, and I was working at that time,” Woodson said, “and I’m still working.”

Talking to Molina from his parked car, Woodson, a pharmaceutical rep, said between client meetings that he’s lucky enough to be working now. But that could change overnight.

“With my job, they could lay me off at any time,” he said, “and I don’t want my benefits messed with.”

He said he called IDES and the agency’s fraud department. But now, like thousands of others, he’s stuck in their callback queue waiting.

“If this thing drags on for a week or two weeks or three weeks, this person is going to be able to certify and receive checks under my name,” Woodson said.

Molina reached the state with Woodson’s information. This was the IDES’ response:

“Unemployment fraud throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major national issue, with bad actors across the globe attempting to exploit this crisis to take advantage of state unemployment systems and those receiving benefits. This is particularly true for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that was hastily designed at the federal level with states left on their own to build a system and implement. There are ongoing federal and state investigations aiming to crack down on this fraud and IDES is committed to working with law enforcement at all levels to hold bad actors accountable.

“If a claimant thinks they have been the target of fraudulent activity, IDES asks that they contact the agency at 800.814.0513 and file a report. IDES will investigate the report and forward findings to law enforcement.”

The IDES spokeswoman said she cannot comment on specific cases.

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.

Tara Molina