Fraudulent unemployment claims on the rise in Central Illinois

Local News

PEORIA, Ill (WMBD) — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central Illinois is working to track business scams and instances of fraud.

Jessica Tharp, president, and CEO said they get roughly 15 calls daily regarding unemployment insurance scams throughout the 37 counties the BBB covers.

“Unemployment fraud has really taken a front seat in terms of scams being reported,” Tharp said. “It’s taken a twist where people are receiving benefits for jobs that they still have even or jobs that they don’t have. So, we’re seeing all kinds of things being reported and it comes down to many things, like identity theft.”

In just one day, the Peoria Police Department received 14 reports of identity theft, all involving fraudulent unemployment insurance claims. In almost every case, the victim received a letter, approving them for unemployment insurance benefits, from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). The victims reported they had not filed for unemployment insurance.

“People don’t realize their information is compromised,” Tharp said.

One woman, Rachel Sweeney, received a letter addressed to her son from IDES about his unemployment claim. She said he never filed for unemployment and did not even live with her anymore.

At Peoria’s C.T. Gabbert Construction, many employees were approved for unemployment benefits even though none of them had applied for unemployment.

“Yeah, nobody applied, we were working all through this, we’ve been working as an essential business,” Chuck Gabbert said. “One of my guys came in, and we were kind of cracking up that we all got it and we thought, okay we need to get this squared away, and it was kind of difficult.”

Gabbert’s colleague, Caroline Jabson, said she worries about how scammers have access to her personal information.

“On that paper, it says our social security numbers. So that alone, is really giving it all up,” Jabson said.

Even Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) fell victim to the fraud scheme earlier this week.

Jessica Tharp said they are trying to prevent people from falling for these scams.

“What we’re learning about this scam is people will receive a card in the mail with instructions to activate the card, except somewhere along the line, the scam artist has already instructed the funds go somewhere else,” Tharp said.

Tharp said not to activate the debit card sent by IDES if it was sent to someone who did not file for unemployment insurance. She also said to monitor all credit accounts to make sure their are no changes. Finally, Tharp said, call the BBB and/or local police if this happens.

“To stop a scam, report a scam,” Tharp said.

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