By Bob Uphues
Police in Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside have been inundated with calls from residents reporting a new COVID-19 unemployment benefits fraud scheme, this time involving letters requesting personal information in order to access those benefits.
Riverside police issued a scam alert over the weekend after receiving about a dozen such reports in the past couple of weeks. According to Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, this new scam is a fresh take on one prevalent during the early weeks of the pandemic.
Back in April, people began reporting receiving what appeared to be pre-paid debit cards from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). People were asked to activate the cards by calling a phone number to establish a PIN. During that call, they'd be asked for personal information.
The new scam involves a letter being sent to residents, purportedly from their employers, saying they have been approved for unemployment benefits and directing them to verify personal information to access those benefits.
In all of the recent Riverside incidents, those receiving the letters were still employed, Weitzel said. One resident who filed a report told police he owned a company and that every one of his employees had received such a letter.
Police are warning residents not to give money or personal information in response to any unexpected request, to be skeptical of information on caller ID, to hang up on robocalls, to search online for scams that sound similar and to talk to someone they trust before taking any action.
To report suspected scams and to obtain more information, people can also visit the Federal Trade Commission's website at ftc.gov/scams or call their local police department.
Two arrested after car stolen
Two people have been arrested in connection with the theft of a car from the parking lot outside CVS, 7200 Cermak Road in North Riverside, on the evening of Nov. 1.
Police responded to the pharmacy parking lot at about 5:05 p.m. after a 52-year-old Berwyn man called to report that someone had just stolen his 2006 Ford Taurus while he was inside the business shopping.
The victim told police he was inside the store about 15 minutes and that when he exited, someone informed him that two people had driven off with his car. The victim also told police that he'd left the car unlocked with the keys in the ignition and the car running while he was inside. The car contained tools for his carpentry business.
According to North Riverside police, on Nov. 7 Maywood police recovered the automobile at First Avenue and Madison Street. They also arrested a 30-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man. Information on charges was not immediately available.
Man charged with theft from laundromat
A 38-year-old Chicago man has been charged with felony theft for allegedly stealing $250 from washing machines and vending machines at a Brookfield laundromat in August.
Gregory Williams turned himself in to police on Oct. 21 after detectives made multiple visits to his residence earlier in the month. Police identified Williams as a suspect through fingerprint evidence obtained at the scene.
Police in September reported that three people were involved in the incident late on Aug. 26 at Family Sudz, 9016 47th St. Surveillance video showed Williams using a pass key to open the coin boxes on the machines while the other two, a man and a woman, blocked the view from outside.
According to the police report, Williams told police he found the set of keys while doing laundry at the business. Williams reportedly said he didn't know the identity of the other man and only knew the woman's first name.
Brookfield police responded to the 9100 block of Sheridan Avenue on the morning of Nov. 8 after a resident called to report that someone had entered his unlocked vehicle overnight and removed two containers of prescription painkillers and an identification card.
Window smashing continues
For the third time since August and for the second time in two weeks, a resident of the 4300 block of Prairie Avenue, Brookfield, called police to report that someone had thrown an object through their living room window.
The latest incident happened Nov. 6 just after 8 p.m. The victim was in the living room when a rock came crashing through the window, according to the police report. No one was hurt.
Brookfield police charged a 38-year-old Chicago man with drunken driving and other offenses after he allegedly drove his 2013 Jeep through a road construction sign and into a pit in the 4100 block of Eberly Avenue on Nov. 7 at about 9 p.m. The man was also driving on a revoked license, according to police.
In the car with him were a 40-year-old woman and her 6-month-old child. Police charged her with child endangerment.
These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield police departments, Nov. 1-8, and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anybody named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. These cases have not been adjudicated.
— Compiled by Bob Uphues