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IDES and Identity Theft

By Terry Savage on July 17, 2020

Did you receive an unexpected debit card loaded with unemployment benefits from IDES? You’re not alone! Suddenly, cards are being sent to retired people, working people, and many who never applied for unemployment. At the same time, many people received notice of a separate bank checking account and a debit card — accounts they never opened. It appears that a massive breach and potential identity theft problem is spreading through IDES — and now involving the banking system. The growing fraud now involves newly-opened bank accounts, and debit cards from several banks.
This article updated on 7/28/20.

So here’s some important advice:

If you receive an unsolicited debit card from IDES or KeyBank or “GoBank” –DO NOT ACTIVATE IT!
Contact that bank’s fraud department and have the account closed. Do not try to use the debit card you might receive. Yes, it is impossible in most cases to reach the bank’s fraud department or the IDES to report fraud. So give it a try — then just hold on to that un-activated card in case — next Januaryy — you receive a 1099-G for unemployment income you did not receive!

Contact each of the three credit bureaus and either freeze or put a fraud alert on your credit report. That will keep new credit from being opened in your name.
Check your report to see if there are any new bank accounts you did not open!

Note: look for any “inquires” made from a bank or card company. While bank accounts do NOT show up on your credit report, an inquiry may be a signal that a fraudster opened an account in your name at another bank! Contact the bank that made an inquiry, and make sure they do not have an online account, using your name and SS number – but someone else’s email address!

Do not be surprised to see a “soft inquiry” from IDES – the Illinois Unemployment Department — even if you did not apply. That’s a signal that someone INSIDE IDES may have been “helping” with this fraud!

You can get a free copy of your report from each of the three bureaus by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Or call the numbers below:

TransUnion 1-800-916-8800 www.Transunion.com
Equifax 1-800-685-1111
www.Equifax.com
Experian 1-888-397-3742
www.Experian.com

Regularly check your bank balances and credit card balances online. Report any unexpected deposits, as they may be a prelude money being wired OUT of your account.

WHAT TO WORRY ABOUT
Understandably, anyone would be upset to know that their personal financial information is being used as part of a fraud. But if you can’t reach IDES or KeyBank, it’s their own fault that their reporting systems are overwhelmed. And it’s their money — well, actually taxpayer money in the case of IDES –that’s at risk. Not yours.

However, you must also carefully guard and frequently review your own credit report, online bank accounts and other financial information on a regular basis, now that you know your personal information is “in play.”
Remember, you are not liable for fraud — but it can be a time-consuming and annoying process of getting things straightened out. So stay on top of this issue by following the recommendations above.

BACKGROUND ON UNEMPLOYMENT SCAMS
Federal banking officials are looking into this scam. It’s not the only one. In the state of Washington, it’s estimated that $600 million has been fraudulently collected in a huge unemployment scam.

Where do fraudsters get not only your name and address, but the Social Security number required to open a new bank account? Much of that information has been floating on the dark web, ever since identity breaches like Equifax, just waiting for a massive opportunity like the money being sent to nearly 40 million unemployed people. When cards are “activated” to receive benefits, the fraudsters may quickly swoop in to electronically transfer money out of the new debit card or checking account they opened online, using your information.

How do I know this is happening? Of course, people who call the unemployment offices to complain simply can’t get through. But suddenly I’ve been inundated with posts on my Ask Terry blog at TerrySavage.com, telling me of IDES benefit cards received – even though these people did not apply! Of course they can’t reach IDES to get things straightened out. But these cards are loaded with money – while others who desperately need their benefits can’t get through the phone lines to certify!

It’s no secret that the Illinois Department of Employment Security is a total mess! Millions of calls go unanswered, and deserving people who have lost their jobs are unable to cut through the messed up phone system to apply for or certify for their benefits. The new “we will call you back” system broke down immediately – as furious citizens report no callback has been received.

Now, adding insult to injury, the system may be part of a huge Identity Theft fraud. Hundreds of people who DID NOT APPLY for unemployment benefits – are starting to receive debit cards loaded with unemployment payments. One woman received FIVE debit cards, in different names, at her address. this is TAXPAYER MONEY lost to fraud.

Another woman who received an unsolicited debit card loaded with money, made it through the IDES phone system, only to be told that her name and social security number were used to register for benefits – but using another email. This case of identity theft would never have been unveiled if the debit card hadn’t come to her home address. She has been retired for years and did not apply!

In other words, the IDES system is being hijacked and scammed — and any citizen is vulnerable to Identity Theft. Illinois is not alone in this. The State of Washington has estimated $660 million in losses to identity fraud theft. The FBI says as much as $26 Billion might have gone astray! These scam artists are using identity fraud information that has been floating around on the “dark web”for years — perhaps as far back as the breaches at Equifax, TJ Maxx, and Target. Now with people claiming thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits (including the $600 weekly Federal benefit) this is a rich target for identity theft. State confusion does not help.

IDES says it has a special phoneline to report fraud. But it, too, takes you nowhere. Maybe now they will staff the fraud line. The number is (800) 814-0513.

Money spent on the new call centers and call back system has so far been a huge waste as the problems multiply for people who need their well-deserved unemployment benefits to feed their children and pay their rent. Meanwhile, identity theft and fraud have taken root, diverting much-needed and honestly-deserved benefits from those who still wait for IDES to approve their claims.

My columns and website are devoted to money issues – not politics. But now, I’m crossing the line.

The Illinois Unemployment system is not only a national disgrace, it is cruel and indifferent to helping the people the state is supposed to serve. These people deserve benefits, and help, and attention. And the public must be protected from Identity Theft spreading from the IDES system. The Governor must speak up. And that’s The Savage Truth.

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