AURORA, IL — More than a dozen Aurora residents have been targeted by two increasingly popular scams, prompting police to issue a warning to residents.
At least 10 residents have filed reports with the Aurora Police Department after receiving debit cards in the mail to access unemployment benefits they never applied for. Several other residents have lost money after being defrauded while trying to sell items through online marketplaces like Craigslist and OfferUp, police said.
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Unemployment systems throughout the country are being targeted by fraudsters amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Illinois Department of Employment Security officials. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that state officials are working with federal authorities to investigate “the nationwide fraud scheme impacting each state’s federal pandemic unemployment assistance program.”
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Any resident who receives a debit card or unemployment insurance letter in the mail from the IDES but did not apply for benefits “has likely been a target of this fraud,” Pritzker said.
Aurora police urged residents to immediately call IDES to report identity theft if they receive a letter or debit card they did not apply for. Residents should then fill a police report with the Aurora Police Department, as well as an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov. Residents should not activate the debit card that was mailed to them, police said.
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The fraud scheme adds to the problems the state’s unemployment system is facing after being “overwhelmed” by the unprecedented need for benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pritzker said.
“This is a problem being experienced all across the country right now because the national program was poorly designed and susceptible to fraud,” Pritzker said.
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Aurora police also warned residents about an increase in reports of fake-check scams. In many cases, a resident who listed items for sale online was contacted by an out-of-state potential buyer.
The buyers then sent the sellers checks that were made out “for grossly more” than the items are worth, police said. The buyers asked the sellers to cash their large checks and return the balance to them, telling the sellers to keep some extra money for themselves, police said.
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About a week after cashing the checks, the sellers were contacted by their banks and informed the check bounced because it was fake, police said.
The scam is often successful because many people believe a cashier’s check is “as good as cash,” police said. Sellers are usually happy to cash the checks, thinking they would receive more money than their items were worth, police added, warning “almost anyone can make a very realistic-looking fake check” with a computer and printer.
This article originally appeared on the Aurora Patch