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May 20, 2004

Blagojevich approves changes in unemployment insurance checks to protect against identity theft
Department of Employment Security devises new identification number

CHICAGO In an effort to protect Illinoisans from identity theft, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today approved plans by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) to discontinue printing social security numbers on Illinois unemployment insurance benefit checks.  The move offers recipients another element of protection from identity theft.
“The new identification system is the result of creativity and determined effort on the part of IDES staff, with the cooperation of the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the banking and currency exchange industries,” said Governor Blagojevich.  “The innovation demonstrates the state’s commitment to the concerns and needs of citizens.”
Until now, the recipient’s social security number was imprinted on each unemployment insurance check to aid banks and currency exchanges in verifying that the person presenting the check was the claimant to whom the check was issued.  In addition, the number was used to aid in the prosecution of fraud cases.
With recently increased public concern over identity theft, IDES explored alternative methods to continue to minimize check-cashing fraud without using printed social security numbers, which might be compromised if benefit checks are ever lost or stolen. The solution was the replacement of the social security number with a newly created 11-digit identification number, which would be used solely to verify identity in the cashing of unemployment insurance benefit checks. 
The change will be effective on all checks mailed after July 1.
“Representatives of the banking and currency exchange industries have assured us that the new identification number will serve as an adequate substitute for the claimant’s Social Security number,” said IDES Director Brenda A. Russell.  “This new identification system makes it possible to eliminate the identity theft concerns associated with the use of Social Security numbers on benefit checks.”
IDES is currently conducting an outreach program to inform banks and currency exchanges of the new identification number and how to use it, in order to maintain and even enhance check fraud deterrence, while providing for a new safeguard against identity theft.


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