Joe Marrazzo of River Forest, Il., phoned his local police department last week to file a report. Before he had a chance to explain his problem, the dispatcher interjected: “Is this about a fraudulent unemployment benefits claim?” Marrazzo, 49, is among more than 350,000 people in Illinois whose personal identities have been used for fraudulent unemployment claims amid the COVID-19 pandemic, The Chicago Tribune reports. Suburban Chicago law enforcement officials say their departments have been bombarded with fraudulent unemployment benefit reports. At times, they get dozens of nearly identical calls from frustrated residents in a single day. In some suburbs, hundreds of reports have been taken since March. In most cases, the target discovers the scam when an employer says a claim was filed in their name despite still being employed. A letter then arrives from the state detailing the unemployment benefits.
On Friday, Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced a task force that will give federal, state and local law enforcement organizations the ability to share resources. Despite the surge in fraudulent claims in recent months, The Illinois Department of Employment Security said the state has “no reason to believe any of its systems have been hacked or breached.” Spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco said the fraud can likely be attributed to large corporate data cyber hacks. She cited the 2017 hacking of Equifax, which houses personally identifiable information of those who have applied for lines of credit, loans and other services that require sensitive personal information to be provided. Cybercrimes expert Thomas Hyslip said, “This could be an effort to cause mayhem to unemployment programs at state agencies across the country.”