Illinois unemployment data breach leads to ID theft, class-action lawsuit claims

Illinois unemployment data breach leads to ID theft, class-action lawsuit claims

The contractor who revamped Illinois’ unemployment system to handle self-employed workers is being sued. One of the nearly 32,500 applicants who had private information exposed said it was used to access her bank account.

A data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of 32,483 Illinois unemployment applicants resulted in at least one case of identity theft, according to a class-action federal lawsuit.

Briana Julius is suing Deloitte Consulting, alleging the contractor failed to secure personally identifying information which led to fraudulent charges on her bank account and her debit card being shut off. Deloitte was paid $22 million to build and manage the system for the Illinois Department of Employment Security to handle claims from self-employed and gig workers, but soon after the system went online May 11 it was found to be publicly exposing private applicant information.

Julius is from St. Clair County. She is suing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, with St. Louis attorney Tiffany Yiatras representing her, according to the Madison-St. Clair Record. The class-action suit on behalf of Julius is the third lawsuit against Deloitte for the May data breach. Two groups of Ohio residents also filed lawsuits.

Colorado also experienced a data breach, officials there said.

The IDES web portal built by Deloitte went live May 11, allowing independent contractors and gig workers to file for the unemployment benefits Congress made available March 27 through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Over 44,000 Illinoisans applied that day.

The Illinois breach became apparent on May 15 when state Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, notified Gov. J.B. Pritzker that one of her constituents was applying on the site and found a spreadsheet with the personal information of unemployment applicants.

Pritzker’s office confirmed to WBEZ they were aware of the problem May 16 and that IDES was working to correct it, but no information was offered as to the scope of the problem. A Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Illinois Policy Institute to IDES showed 32,483 unemployment applicants had their private data exposed.

Deloitte notified Julius of the potential breach, but stated that after an investigation they found there was no likelihood her “personal information was improperly used or is likely to be misused,” according to the complaint. After fraud issues on her bank account, Julius found grounds to sue after spending significant personal time dealing with the issue.

The lawsuit is being filed as a class action to help anyone in the U.S. impacted by Deloitte’s mismanagement, it states.

The volume of unemployment applicants, which now totals over 1.24 million, overwhelmed Illinois’ unemployment system. Pritzker blamed the backups on a decade-old computer system that was built to handle the same volume of unemployment claims as seen during the Great Recession in 2009. The state hired Deloitte to revamp the system and process claims more quickly.

Illinoisans continue to fight the state unemployment system trying to get the benefits they were promised that were funded by their tax dollars.

“It’s been 12 weeks since I requested assistance and it’s still up in the air. I have not been able to get anything; it’s one roadblock in front of the other,” said Ernie Sandoval, an idled automotive service manager from Mokena, Illinois.

“We need to have more assistance and a better way to help the people of Illinois deal with hard times like this.”

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