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Report says more than $45B in pandemic unemployment aid was stolen nationwide; no accurate numbers from Illinois

CHICAGO (CBS) — For years, CBS 2 has exposed rampant fraud across the state – involving innocent people’s money stolen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, a federal report says more than $45.6 billion has been stolen in the U.S. – and the State of Illinois still isn’t sharing how much of your tax dollars was misspent.

As CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman reported Thursday, oversight essentially did not exist in Illinois.

The report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General shows more than 1,000 people have been charged with unemployment insurance fraud.

But now, the OIG is reporting an additional $29 billion in fraud, totaling more than $45 billion.

“Hundreds of billions in pandemic funds attracted fraudsters seeking to exploit the [unemployment insurance] program, resulting in historic levels of fraud and other improper payments,” Labor Department Inspector General Larry Turner said in a statement. 

So where it is all coming from?

Across multiple states, Social Security numbers were stolen – including from people who have died, suspicious emails, and even federal prisoners. It amounts to more than 2 million Social Security numbers used by thieves to steal your money.

The problem now is that even though the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programs expired a year ago, the new report calls out some states for missing data. We found incomplete numbers in monthly reports the Illinois Department of Employment Security files with the feds.

The OIG report says, “These delays impede our ability to perform our statutory duty to effectively and timely conduct audits.”

So why can’t Illinois provide accurate numbers yet?

“I believe they have the information,” said Haywood Talcove, chief executive officer of Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions. “I think at the end of the day, that money left a bank account controlled by the state, and went into an account, and there are plenty of good auditors that could figure it out.”

Talcove has been watching unemployment fraud issues – even testifying on the subject in the past. He questions why there was no oversight.

“I appreciate the money they’re getting back from these criminals,” he said. “It should never have happened in the first place.”

A state audit in June found Illinois lost nearly $2 billion in identity theft fraud. But that figure was never reported to the federal government.

CBS 2 obtained data which show Illinois started reporting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance overpayment cases in December 2020 – but then nothing until July 2021.

The latest report, as of August, shows only 2,600 unemployment cases considered fraudulent in the IDES system – totaling $16 million. IDES has never reported overpayments related to identity theft or fraud.

“How do you fix a problem if you don’t even acknowledge it?” Talcove said.

Source: CBS Chicago

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