CHICAGO (CBS) — Many people in Illinois have complained of having their identities stolen in connection with the Illinois Department of Employment Services.

They’ve been caught up in a scam targeting the state’s unemployment system, even though they’re still working. How is this happening and how big is the problem?

CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported Wednesday night on how people are getting scammed.

What’s clear is scammers are working to capitalize on a country in flux. Nowhere is this more evident than the medical and unemployment fronts. And the scammers are working overtime to profit from the public.

Names. Crucial to get them right if you’re trying to steal someone’s identity.

“They had my Social Security number correct and my employer’s tax ID correct, but the name they had on paper was a previous name, not my current name,” said Linda Carr, whose identity was stolen. Her bosses were sent a letter last month to confirm her termination.

Problem is she has been working the entire time. She believes scammers, trying to unlock fraudulent unemployment dollars, were using her information. She’s not alone.

“People are literally committing fraud. All over the country. We are not unique,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We speak regularly with the feds.”

What the governor isn’t speaking about is how big the surge in cases really is. Viewers have reached out to CBS 2 in massive waves lately. CBS 2 staffers seeing a spike in personal cases. Neither the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the Attorney General nor the FBI would answer CBS 2’s questions on spikes in cases like Linda Carr’s.

“What if I do lose my job, and I really need to file for unemployment? Someone already having filed will make it difficult for me to collect it,” Carr said.

CBS 2 Investigators dug into recent claims at IDES. As of the end of October, there were more than 157,000 unpaid pandemic unemployment assistance claims. Of those, over 69,000 were being held up because of identity issues.

It’s unclear how many were fraud related, but the state said it is “working on identifying….why it failed/passed the verification check.”

Linda Carr has been trying to get a reply from the state for four weeks.

“You are not allowed to call again because it blocks you from leaving another message,” Carr said.

Employment numbers are just one arm of the problem. CBS 2 dug into financial identity thefts in Chicago. As of last October Chicago saw 521 cases. This October, it was over 1,000 and November is tracking higher.

Carr said she has tried the governor’s office, who referred her to IDES.

“It’s my identity that’s out there,” Carr said. “My Social Security number that’s in the hands of we don’t know who. So, I donot know what I’m supposed to do.”

Pritzker told CBS 2 he wishes they could hire more investigators. As CBS 2 reported Monday, there have been COVID outbreaks at some IDES facilities, leaving Linda Carr to wait even longer.

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