Unemployment scam hits several employees of Sunset Ridge D29
Superintendent says there was no internal data breach
Seven reports of identity fraud were filed with the Northfield Police Department on Oct. 15 by employees of Sunset Ridge District 29.
In each case, according to the department’s reports, an employee’s identity was reportedly used to file for unemployment benefits. They are being investigated as identify thefts, according to Northfield Sgt. Michael Hutensky.
Sunset Ridge D29 Superintendent Dr. Edward Stange said the Illinois Department of Employment Services contacted the district to alert administration of possible fraudulent claims involving their employees.
After discussing options with IDES and affected staff, Stange said, the district decided to coordinate with the Northfield Police Department, instead of individual hometown departments, in order to simplify the process.
A social security number — as well as other personal information like name, address and phone number — is required to file for unemployment insurance in Illinois. Stange, however, does not believe the district’s systems were compromised.
“There is no indication of any type of breach,” he said, adding that the pervasiveness of the scam has led officials to believe the private information came from a larger organization’s data breach.
Strange said that none of the affected Sunset Ridge employees have reported unusual activity in their accounts.
The district has notified all of its employees of the incidents and provided tips to avoid and respond to the scam, Stange said.
Police departments across the country have fielded reports of identity theft through unemployment benefits ever since March, when the pandemic created the largest unemployment spike in the country’s history.
The nationwide scam has affected more than 120,000 victims in Illinois alone, according to an August statement from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pritzker also reported that those who “properly flagged” the fraud will not have to worry about tax or state repercussions.
Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319