For years, experts including Talcove have warned states that massive amounts of stolen personal information, obtained in recent years through various computer hacks, could allow thieves to trick unemployment agencies into sending benefits to the wrong people. Incidents of this so-called impostor fraud exploded during the pandemic.
Talcove said a vendor could stop the flood of bad claims for about $1 million a year, using the kinds of systems the private sector has employed for years. He recommended the state seek competitive bids among qualified firms, including his own.
IDES has said it’s working toward better security but worries tighter defenses may block out people who legitimately qualify for cash.
Talcove said security can be tightened without hurting legitimate claimants.
“With the technology that exists, you can have it. You can get a package delivered by Amazon in a trustworthy manner. You can make a transaction on a bank account and be safe,” he told lawmakers. “You can have the same thing with government programs.”
Illinois has yet to release figures on how much money was stolen, but Talcove said he suspects it’s at least $1 billion.
Talcove warned that instructions on how to steal from states are available for sale on unindexed, encrypted parts of the internet called the “dark web,” including a kit about stealing from IDES that costs $15.