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Pritzker says “highly experienced money launderers” behind unemployment debit card fraud attempts

Thursday, Aug 6, 2020

* Post-Dispatch

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that Illinois officials have found more than 120,000 cases of unemployment fraud since March connected to a national identity theft scheme during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pritzker said in a news conference that residents who received an unemployment debit card or letter from the state in the mail, but did not apply for unemployment assistance, are likely victims of the fraud. The state recommends they report identity theft to the Illinois Department of Employment Security at www.illinois.gov/ides or by calling 800-814-0513, Pritzker said.

IDES found 107,000 fraud cases in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program set up in May, and about 14,000 in the state system, Pritzker said.

The governor laid blame on flaws in the federal program and said states across the country are facing similar cases of fraud.

Pritzker said the federal system resulted in “massive holes for illegal fraudsters to steal federal funds.”

* Sun-Times

A “poorly designed” national program allowed “highly experienced money launderers” to take advantage of “massive holes” to file more than 120,000 fraudulent claims through Illinois’ beleaguered unemployment benefits system during the coronavirus pandemic. […]

In the scheme, fraudsters have used Illinois residents’ personal information stolen in separate data breaches to apply for benefits to be paid through direct-deposit, debit cards and other financial tools employed by legitimate filers.

“The highly experienced money launderers who have perpetrated these crimes use the same payment methods that regular filers do,” Pritzker said, so the state can’t cut off “common dispersal mechanisms” that are also used by people who really need the help.

Accompanying Pritzker to yesterday’s press conference was Marco Morales, the IDES benefit payment control manager. Chicago reporters did not ask him a single question. Instead, several focused on COVID-19 topics that were covered way back in March and April. It was a weird thing.

* Anyway, back to unemployment

The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell last week, but a staggering 31.3 million people were receiving unemployment checks in mid-July, suggesting the labor market was stalling as the country battles a resurgence in new COVID-19 cases that is threatening a budding economic recovery.

Other data on Thursday showed a 54% surge in job cuts announced by employers in July. The reports followed on the heels of news this week of a sharp step-down in private payrolls in July and continued declines in employment at manufacturing and services industries.

“Repeated shutdowns for virus containment remain a threat to the labor market, which is already weak,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in White Plains, New York. “Without effective virus containment the recovery remains at risk from ongoing job losses that could further restrain incomes and spending.”

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 249,000 to a seasonally adjusted 1.186 million for the week ended Aug. 1, the Labor Department said. That was the lowest since mid-March. Claims remain well above the peak of 695,000 during the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

According to the US Department of Labor, 24,712 Illinoisans filed for new unemployment claims last week, down 8,518 from the previous week. Another 4,515 filed for pandemic unemployment assistance, down 1,943 from the previous week.

This is the 20th straight week that more than a million people have filed for new unemployment assistance.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

9 Comments
  1. - Perrid - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 12:19 pm:

    Are the 120k fraudulent claims counted in the other figures? Weekly initial claims, or whatever. Or were they counted in past weeks, before it was discovered they were fraudulent?


  2. - Mayor - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 12:31 pm:

    I received such a card. I called and was told because of the volume of calls I was to leave my number which I did …Almost THREE weeks ago.. They tell you don’t try again because you are already in line to get a call. So I tried just to make sure I was in the system. I was. Three weeks speaks of an incompetent system under this governor. I called his office and they said there is nothing they can do. I know what I can do- never vote for JBP again.


  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 12:47 pm:

    Perrid, great question. Will ask now.


  4. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 1:02 pm:

    ===never vote for JBP again.===

    Because it’s his fault State agencies were stripped bare before a pandemic led to a historical number of unemployment claims?


  5. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 1:05 pm:

    Pardon the grammar. Should probably be ‘historic’. Unprecedented would’ve been a better word.


  6. - Chatham Resident - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 1:26 pm:

    ==Chicago reporters did not ask him a single question. Instead, several focused on COVID-19 topics that were covered way back in March and April. It was a weird thing.==

    And we think it’s bad enough in Springfield having to deal with Channel 20 reporters, and anyone who’s left at the SJ-R that isn’t named Bernie Schoenberg. With Channels 17 and 3 not much better nowadays in our market.


  7. - KSDinCU - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 1:36 pm:

    I got a card weeks ago. Thanks you the first post here about the fraud, I knew to call it in. IDES called back just a few days later and I missed the call because I was in the shower. Called back and left my number again, and have been waiting ever since for another callback. So much for jumping on it early.


  8. - Fly like an eagle - Thursday, Aug 6, 20 @ 4:15 pm:

    The IDES needs two factor authentication when a person signs up. So many places do that now. This would stop a lot of the scams.


  9. - 44th - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 8:39 am:

    Blame the feds? The States admin the program. Total incompetence. They knew this was coming. Blame Deloitte or heaven forbid the state employees responsible for administering the program.


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