By Marie Saavedra

CHICAGO (CBS) — An urgent alert from the federal government tonight as it investigates unemployment fraud.

It said states like Illinois need help from higher up to fight the problem.

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CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reports from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

The alert comes from the U.S. Department of Labor  Office of the Inspector General. It’s auditing several states to try to get to the bottom of this rampant unemployment fraud that it seems they can’t resolve.

“It’s just very surprising and shocking.”

CBS 2 first met Angela Rose in December to talk about the loss of her father.

“He had some Vietnam War-era related ailments that later in life caused him to come down with this very rare form of blood cancer,” Rose said.

He died in January of 2020, and months later, received a debit card from the state with unemployment benefits on it. He is many of the deceased Illinoisans whose information was stolen, and one of hundreds of people CBS 2 has interviewed who are victims of countless unemployment fraud schemes.

“That could have very easily been flagged as fraudulent just by making some phone calls,” Rose said.

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The problem is well established.

The Illinois Department of Employment Services pledged to fight it, and yet the theft continues. And not just here, but nationally.

So much so, that the Office of the Inspector General that’s been auditing the issue released an urgent alert Monday. It identified four main sources of unemployment fraud: People filing claims in many states, using Social Security numbers of the dead or belonging to state and federal inmates and claims filed from suspicious email accounts.

Illinois has seen fraud that fits into at least two of those categories. So what’s the solution?

Federal auditors recommend the U.S. Department of Labor get involved, to help states drowning in these crimes by “implementing effective controls to mitigate fraud in these high risk areas.”

It took CBS 2’s reporting of Rose’s father’s story for IDES to stop the account falsely created.

“That could have very easily been flagged as fraudulent just by making some phone calls,” Rose said.

For victims desperate to protect their identities, any help, federal or otherwise, is welcomed.

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CBS 2 reached out to IDES for comment, to ask if it agrees that Illinois has been hit by the four fraud categories, a dollar amount for fraudulent payouts and reaction to possible help from the Department of Labor, but have not back.

Marie Saavedra