CHAMPAIGN — More than 260 Parkland College employees have become victims of fraudulent unemployment claims that have been sweeping across Illinois and other states throughout the pandemic.
In Illinois alone, the state Department of Employment Security has shut down more than 341,000 fraudulent claims that have been reported to date, according to agency spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco.
Those receiving paperwork in the mail about unemployment claims they didn’t make should call the Illinois Department of Employment Security and report it immediately, she advised.
“These instances involve bad actors filing fraudulent claims of unemployment in the names of current employees, with the goal of illegally collecting unemployment insurance,” said Parkland spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart. “At Parkland, we have seen more than 260 such claims filed in the names of employees.”
Dealing with the fake claims is so time consuming, Parkland has one full-time human-resources employee devoting nearly all of their time to deal with them, Stuart said.
“Our human-resources office has been very active in assisting impacted employees in contesting the fraudulent claims, including daily checks and ongoing communication until the claims are resolved,” she said. “We are hopeful that by being so prompt that we help our employees shut down not only this fraud but any other fraud that may occur.”
It’s hard to say why so many Parkland employees have been victimized by unemployment claim fraud, but Parkland does make the names, positions and salaries of its employees publicly available, according to Stuart.
“We have a high level of transparency in terms of who is working for us,” she said.
Parkland doesn’t, however, make public any personal information about its employees, Stuart said.
The fraudulent claims are also taking up time for the affected employees, who must work through a checklist of steps to take in response, Stuart said.
Cisco said once victims have reported fraudulent claims to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, they should be on the lookout for a call back. And be aware there may be a wait due to the volume of claims, she said.
She also advised anyone who has had a false claim for unemployment made in their names to take all the other steps they would normally take to protect themselves in the case of identity theft.
The FBI announced in July that fraudulent unemployment claims were spiking in several states.
The agency advised being on the lookout for the following suspicious activities:
- Receiving communications regarding unemployment insurance forms when there wasn’t an application made for unemployment benefits.
- Unauthorized transactions on bank or credit card statements related to unemployment benefits.
- Any fees involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance.
- Unsolicited inquires related to unemployment benefits.
- Fictitious websites and social-
- media pages mimicking those of government agencies.