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State crackdown on unemployment fraud

SPRINGFIELD -- Thousands of people in Illinois rely on unemployment checks when times are tough.
SPRINGFIELD -- Thousands of people in Illinois rely on unemployment checks when times are tough. But, millions of dollars are ending up in the wrong hands. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels investigates.

Businesses are the ones really hurting here. They pay into the unemployment fund. When people take more than they should, businesses have to keep putting more money in, which drives up prices, leaving all of us digging deeper into our own pockets.

When you're in between jobs, it usually means a trip to the unemployment office. More than 200,000 people in Illinois rely on help to get by.

"The vast majority of these people are hardworking people who are hoping to get a new job as soon as possible."

But, there are some taking money who don't deserve it. Currently, the state's trying to get back more than a quarter billion dollars from 70,000 people who've slipped through the security cracks.

"That pool of people is over years and years and years."

Still, it's a lot of money that could help those who really need it. Instead, it's going into the pockets of people who are cheating the system.

"Most people apply for jobless benefits online, but right now, there's no way to tell if someone's lying or not. All you have to do is put in your social security number. Say you don't have a job, and the money goes right into your bank account."

"It's to be immediate assistance to someone who's been laid off because they don't have the resources to get food on the table or buy medication or make the mortgage payment."

The problem is, the state only runs checks every four months, so a lot of fraud goes unnoticed.

"We need to do a better job getting more information in getting cross matches so we can make sure the small subset of people who are trying to cheat the system that we catch them."

That's exactly what they're doing now. The department runs checks every month. It's something they hope will help curb fraud and put more deserving people back on their feet. The state says this wasn't much of a problem before the economy took a turn for the worse.
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