By Bob Bong
Police in Palos Heights and Palos Park say residents are reporting receiving unsolicited unemployment benefit debit cards in the mail.
More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. In Illinois alone, an estimated 1.45 million residents have filed unemployment claims due to the health crisis.
“Over the past several weeks, many complaints have been received by the Palos Heights Police Department concerning citizens receiving fraudulent unemployment debit cards that were not requested,” said William D. Czajkowski, Deputy Chief of Police Operations.
“It appears that the Illinois Department of Employment Security computer systems have been compromised to issue debit cards to individuals that are not presently receiving unemployment benefits,” he said.
In Palos Park, a 51-year-old man said he received a suspicious letter from the Illinois Department of Employment Security on Aug. 8. The man’s wife received a similar letter on Aug. 5.
Both are employed and did not apply for unemployment benefits.
The couple said the letters have incorrect address labels but included their correct names and employment information.
Palos Park police said they were advised to contact their banks and employers, and change any computer passwords.
Victims of such fraud face potential harm. The personal information collected by the scammers may be used to commit identity theft to file unemployment insurance claims.
Czajkowski had some advice for residents if they receive an unsolicited debit card:
- Do not use the debit card if you are not authorized to receive unemployment benefits. Unauthorized use will require reimbursement of funds to the IDES.
- Contact your local police department to immediately report this fraud.
- You can also contact the IDES at 800-244-5631 to report the unsolicited debit card.
- Card recipients should be cautious if they are solicited from anyone concerning these cards.
- Card recipients may want to place a credit freeze or fraud alert to prevent any additional identify theft from happening.
Credit bureaus are available to assist with credit breaches. Credit breaches need only to be reported to one credit bureau. Once initially reported, the breach will be reported to the other two bureaus.