CHICAGO (CBS) — Tax time is now a troubling time for those who have been ensnared in the state’s unemployment system this year. The victims of fraudsters using the identity of strangers to get their hands on IDES money are now being told their state tax refunds will be withheld if they don’t return money they never even received.
This comes after the state repeatedly told these people it would get cleaned up by tax season.READ MORE: Aldermen Approve Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Plan To Update Affordable Housing Requirements For Developers As City Council Resumes In-Person Meetings
Despite being employed the whole time, the state sent Dr. Derrick Hassert a benefits debit card triggered by fraudsters. He tore it up at the state’s suggestion. The the state said if he doesn’t give back the money they would take it from his tax refund.
And he’s far from alone.
“I am angry because this is what I feared would happen. This is what I kind of predicted would happen,” Hassert said.
Indeed he did.
Last November he told CBS 2, “I’m still worried that come tax time, this might be reported as taxable income.”
The state said his total overpayment balance owed is $968 and that they will deduct and withhold his state income tax refunds if he doesn’t repay.
In the days and weeks that followed he alerted his local police, the Illinois Attorney General, the state tax collecting comptrollers office and IDES. They suggested he discard the debit card with the money on it and they’d take care of the rest.
“The gentleman said, ‘We’ll take care of you. Don’t worry about it,'” Hassert said.
From call takers to the top of the department, the messaging to victims is: “We’re on it, and you’ll be OK.”
“We’re working closely with our state and federal partners to protect claimants,” said IDES Director Kristin Richards last November.READ MORE: Matteson, Tinley Park Now Have Walk-In COVID Vaccine Sites, Open Through Saturday
But then a letter came Wednesday demanding repayment of the nearly $1,000.
“To me this is just adding insult to injury,” Hassert said. “I kind of hope I’m the only one that got effected.”
He’s not. A half dozen fraud victims have reached out to CBS 2 with similar problems. When we asked IDES how widespread the problem is, we got no answer.
“‘We gave it to you. We gave it to you wrongly. You just need to give it back to us.’ And this is them saying we are taking it back from you because you didn’t give it back to us,” Hassert said.
It’s a back and forth he saw coming months ago. He says forecasting the state’s flaws isn’t hard.
“It’s bad when you can predict the incompetence of whats going on,” he said.
There is a state policy that ensures people in his boat should not have to pay this back.
In CBS 2’s talks with IDES they asked for Hassert’s information. He allowed us to share it, so we did. Within an hour IDES got back to him saying, “An offset was mistakenly made on your account and will be released. You should have it in 7 to 10 business days.”
So, he believes it is finally “problem solved.” But he’s not holding his breath.
Late Friday we talked with IDES about the size and scope of this problem. They did not offer specifics. But six people have gotten in touch with us, indicating Hassert is far from alone.MORE NEWS: COVID In Illinois: 2,765 New Cases, 28 Additional Deaths