“Over 50% of the claims that we receive in our office are fraudulent claims,” Eckstein said. Before the pandemic he said it was “Less than 1%.”
The bogus claims Eckstein sees are just a fraction of the fraud. The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported, between March 2020 and January 2021, it had stopped close to one million fraudulent claims.
Many law enforcement agencies are continuing to see a high rate of identification-theft cases involving individuals whose personal information was illegally used to apply for unemployment benefits during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the recent cases are coming to light when individuals are receiving bank debit cards or paperwork in the mail indicating they were approved for federal pandemic unemployment assistance that they never applied for.
In other instances described by law enforcement officials, victims are learning they have been defrauded when they receive tax forms instructing them that the unemployment benefits they received last year are reportable income — although those individuals were not aware that someone had applied for or received the benefits using their identity. In some cases, multiple individuals from the same organizations — school districts, professional firms or government agencies — were victimized. That, according to law enforcement experts, could be tied to data breaches involving those entities.