How COVID Ignited Unemployment Insurance Fraud, and What You Can Do to Fight this Menace

For a variety of reasons, unemployment insurance fraud has grown into a major concern not just for Illinois, but the entire country.  A USA Today article last year estimated $36 billion had been stolen from the U.S. by overseas scam artists alone. In California, unemployment claims by 35,000 prison inmates were erroneously approved by a state agency. Washington State went from identifying a few dozen fraudulent claims a year to 122,000. Unemployment fraud is growing so quickly, it's essential employers and employees learn how to recognize they have been victimized by fraud, and understand what they can do to battle the scourge.

IDES image
A new portal established by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) can help employers monitor and subsequently dispute unemployment insurance claims.

How does the scam work? People are taking Social Security numbers from other people, filing for unemployment benefits and taking those benefits for themselves.

Victims find out about it in letters they receive from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). IDES will send a letter to the person under whose identity the claims have been submitted.  A letter will also go to the employer notifying the employer of the claim.

Those who have been scammed may also discover the fraud when they receive a Form 1099-G early in tax season. Those forms are mailed to people the IRS believes have received unemployment insurance during the course of the previous tax year.

A perfect storm

Why has the unemployment insurance fraud threat emerged front and center at this time?

The surge in the fraud results from “a perfect storm” of concurrent events, according to Allison Bartels, compliance officer with Oak Brook, Ill.-based Leaders Bank.   First, hackers have pulled off a number of significant corporate data breaches in recent years, among them the giant Equifax breach of May through July, 2017. That breach alone exposed hundreds of millions of individuals' data to the dark web. Unscrupulous operators have exploited the breaches to gain Social Security numbers and commit identity theft.

In the midst of that ongoing surge in identity theft fraud, the sudden emergence of COVID-19 led to mass layoffs, leaving IDES inundated with claims. An agency already overburdened with backlogged claims stood ill-prepared to verify if all the new claims were legitimate. “It just happened at the same time,” Bartels says. “People felt they could overwhelm the system with claims. It was already overburdened, and that made it easier to commit fraud.”

Among the most outrageous scams is one that is delivered by text message and purports to be from IDES, but exists as nothing more than a phishing attempt to gain vital information. 

Disputing claims

Once notified fraudulent claims have been initiated, employees and employers must communicate with one another. Both need to be aware the claim has been filed and take steps immediately to dispute the claim.  The State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES), a new IDES-established portal to provide an electronic way to obtain unemployment notices, can provide assistance. Employers should register with SIDES, which can speed up the process of receiving and disputing claims.

Individuals can take action in other ways. Because their Social Security numbers are being used fraudulently, they should visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, That site will help them create their own Identity Theft Reports, as well as personal recovery plans based on their own individual situations. The website also displays a map showing the extent of the problem in Illinois. Its neighboring states in Q4 2020 registered from 33 to 123 identity theft reports apiece. By contrast, Illinois tallied 810 reports.

Individuals can take additional steps. “The next thing they can do is look at their credit reports by going to Credit report,” Bartels says.

“There, they can gain access to their free credit report every year. And if they've been victimized, they should put a freeze on their credit reports. That way, they can make sure that other versions of identity theft aren't taking place in their names.”

Although the pandemic unexpectedly sparked a steep increase in the number of fraudulent cases, IDES has been improving its processes, so the problem should diminish as these claims are denied.

Located at 2001 York Road in Oak Brook, The Leaders Bank is a premier community commercial bank catering to private business owners, their families and other entrepreneurs. The Leaders Bank offers a full spectrum of traditional and customized banking services, Internet-based banking, and online bill payment. To contact The Leaders Bank, call (630) 572-5323 or visit

How Trade Associations are Helping Companies During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been termed the most serious health and economic challenge to strike the U.S. in generations. COVID-19's impact could not have been anticipated or prepared for by manufacturing companies. The pandemic's unpredictable course has left them scrambling to keep employees safe while continuing to maintain normal operations.

Throughout the crisis, manufacturing trade associations have played a critically important role in providing vital information to their members to help keep them up and running. 20-LB-553 webinar photo

"The trade associations, including the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Valley Industrial Association, have put out their own daily emails, with updates on the COVID situation, updates on Governor Pritzker's orders and very useful webinars on how to keep their employees and customers safe," says Leaders Bank President Bill Gleason.

An example of that value came when employers had to locate quick-scan thermometers able to monitor employees' and others' temperatures. "There were three-month delays," Gleason recalls. "But the trade associations alerted members to the fact another member was manufacturing the thermometers, and could provide them in expedited fashion."

At the Springfield-based Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA), president and CEO Mark Denzler reports members sought timely and accurate information allowing them to continue operating safely within a continually-shifting landscape. The IMA responded with daily email updates offering insights about new health and safety guidelines from the state or federal government. Daily communications included state and federal law changes and fresh guidance on an array of topics, from workers' compensation to truck weights, WARN notices, CARES Act, Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans and more.

Due to the importance of accurate information, IMA opted to update not just members, but all Illinois manufacturers. The association also opened up virtual programming to its partners, including chambers, EDCs and other companies. "Many days, the IMA sent two or three emails as new announcements were made that impacted operations," Denzler says. "The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with countless members indicating our information was the single most important communication they received daily."

20-LB-553 WP photoMeantime, the Geneva, Ill.-based Valley Industrial Association began dispatching its own updates, reports Kathy Gilmore, president of the 200-member company association.

In a daily newsletter that transitioned to weekly June 30, "We kind of [shared] the top five things we found most important that day, including webinars from our partners, updates from the NAM and IMA, and an inspirational thought of the day," Gilmore says.

Legislative efforts

To ensure news it disseminated to members remained current, IMA staff attended every gubernatorial press conference regarding the pandemic. The association worked directly with the governor and his administration, National Association of Manufacturers, Illinois Congressional Delegation and federal agencies like the SBA to remain up to date. The insights gleaned through these efforts enabled the IMA thus far in 2020 to host almost 75 events focused on a wide variety of coronavirus-related issues, Denzler says.

As well as drafting the definition of "essential manufacturing" included in the Governor's executive order, the IMA collaborated with the Retail Merchants Association of Illinois to hike truck weight limits from 80,000 to 88,000 pounds to allow more product to be shipped quickly. The IMA also worked with the business community and the Illinois Department of Employment Security on unemployment insurance claims. In that endeavor, it made sure employers will not be negatively affected by COVID-19-related layoffs, Denzler says.

"The IMA sued the Governor and his Worker's Compensation Commission, and won in court when they tried to illegally change the 'rebuttable presumption' and force employers to cover workers' compensation claims related to COVID-19," he adds.

"Later, the IMA worked with the [Illinois] legislature to pass a balanced measure that protected workers while ensuring good employers are not penalized."

Banking on job banks

IMA and VIA have stayed active in bringing employees and manufacturers together in tough economic times. The IMA launched "Makers Hiring" to showcase available jobs in manufacturing. Nationally, 460,000 open manufacturing jobs exist, tens of thousands in Illinois, Denzler points out. The organization also created the "Healthy Manufacturing Certificate," encouraging member companies to seek training by OSHA-certified trainers and achieve an approved plan meeting CDC, OSHA and WHO guidelines. 

At the same time, the VIA readied the launch of its new job bank for members, Gilmore says. The job bank will enable members to upload their open positions to the bank. "Job seekers will be able to upload their resumes for access by our members," she adds.

Finally, it's noteworthy while its manufacturing sector customers profited from association updates, Leaders Bank itself also benefitted from membership in banking associations. "The Illinois Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association, were extremely helpful in providing information on the PPP funds," Gleason says.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Prairie State manufacturers can rest assured associations like the IMA and VIA will furnish updates on the latest pandemic-related news and best practices, to ensure the state's makers continue to operate safely and productively.

Located at 2001 York Road in Oak Brook, Leaders Bank is a premier community commercial bank catering to private business owners, their families and other entrepreneurs. Leaders Bank offers a full spectrum of traditional and customized banking services, Internet-based banking, and online bill payment. To contact Leaders Bank, call (630) 572-5323 or visit

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Smart Financial Decisions To Keep Businesses Moving Forward During Uncertain Times - Blog News (

How a Community Bank Protects Small Business During a Crisis - Blog News (

Smart Financial Decisions To Keep Businesses Moving Forward During Uncertain Times

A once-a-century pandemic and its resulting financial crisis may seem an inopportune moment for companies to position themselves for the future. But in fact, this break from business as usual may be the necessary time to take stock of your company's short and longer-term financial plans and goals. Meeting with your community banker can help you review everything from your business plan to cash flow to fresh potential sources of revenue. This collaboration could leave your company poised to emerge from the COVID-19 recession ready to soar to new heights in the post-pandemic business environment.

Speak with your community banker about all the following strategies.

Preserve cash flow

Cash remains your company's lifeblood. Preserving cash flow is more than ever central to its existence. Work with your banker to institute measures like ACH services, enabling customers to pay your company more conveniently and expeditiously.

These options can help keep the cash circulating during these slower times, positioning your company for robust revenue inflows in the improved business climate ahead.

Examine your debt

Your company won't fare well during the crisis and afterwards if its debt service is not sensibly addressed. Your enterprise may have the resources to eliminate debt right now, but that may not be the best approach. By contrast, your company could be short of available funds and need to work with creditors to agree on a longer payment timetable. Your bank can help your company achieve a cash flow balance, paying debts over time as business operations generate revenue.

Retain your customers 

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Use the pandemic-triggered recession as an opportunity to forge an even stronger relationship with your company's best customers.

Customer relationships you've built over time are at the very heart of your success. They will be for years to come. Don't let a health and financial crisis like this jeopardize these hard-won relationships. Stay in close touch with customers. Hold video meetings in place of in-person get-togethers. View COVID-19 not as a threat to the rapport you've built with customers, but as a chance to fortify these crucial ties.

Review your business plan

In light of this pandemic-sparked watershed moment, scrutinize your business plan to determine whether it remains relevant. Consider adding more immediate action steps to see your company through the COVID-19 crisis.

What steps will help you quickly move forward when normalcy is restored? Developing a plan within your business plan can help wring clarity out of a confusing period.

Seek financing

Many companies have had their financial resources sapped by pandemic-related expenses. If your company is among them, and the government's Paycheck Protection Program has proven insufficient, decide whether you will need financing to recover or continue your business. A loan can offer a lifeline to get your company through the crisis.  Whether you need to make up for lost cash flow, pay for overhead or make payroll, your community banker can provide insights needed to determine what type of financing to seek, and best steps to take beforehand to increase chances of approval.

Identify new revenue sources

As in any crisis, new opportunities have opened during the pandemic, and some firms have flourished at a time others have floundered. For instance, home improvement chains have prospered, as have software developers, home delivery services and Internet-enabled communication providers. Explore ways to prosper from a new normal evolving from the lockdowns and quarantines. Are there ways for your company to serve new markets emerging or profiting from the crisis?

Develop or enhance emergency plan

Having addressed the steps above, fine tune your company's emergency preparedness plan. You've learned much during COVID-19 about what does and doesn't work in a company's crisis response.

Alter your emergency plan accordingly. Talk with your banker about emergency scenarios. Discuss how they may impact revenues, cash flow and ability to pay obligations. Develop a plan to address each possible peril before it materializes. When a strategy's in place for every potential threat, you're better prepared in event of future challenges.

A health and financial emergency can be a scary time for company owners and managers. However, history is replete with stories of companies that viewed a daunting time as a chance to rise, and leveraged the moment to become more successful organizations. With guidance from your bank, the COVID era could be your company's catalyst to move forward, growing sales, revenues and profits in the years ahead.

Located at 2001 York Road in Oak Brook, Leaders Bank is a premier community commercial bank catering to private business owners, their families and other entrepreneurs. Leaders Bank offers a full spectrum of traditional and customized banking services, Internet-based banking, and online bill payment. To contact Leaders Bank, call (630) 572-5323 or visit

Originally published in Illinois Manufacturer magazine:

The Leaders Bank Joins CIC to Unveil $330 Million Affordable Housing Investment Fund

CIC Chas Hall closeupCharles Hall of The Leaders Bank (right) with Jack Markowski of CIC and Tiffany Taylor of Wintrust at a CIC-financed courtyard building in South Shore. 


The Leaders Bank is among the 40 area banks financially supporting the Community Investment Corporation $330 million investment pool to finance the acquisition and rehabilitation of 7,000 units of affordable rental housing in the Chicago region over the next five years. 

 “This $330 million commitment to CIC represents a major effort to counter the historic disinvestment in many Chicago communities,” said CIC Chicago President Jack Markowski at a news conference that included Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara and representatives from the participating banks. “It will preserve our affordable housing stock, invest in communities that are most in need, and build and strengthen the local businesses who own and operate the buildings.”

The news conference was held at a CIC-financed courtyard building in South Shore, a community in which CIC has financed over $60 million to preserve 1,800 units over the past 10 years.

"This major commitment from CIC and its investor banks will ensure that our communities that suffer from housing insecurity will have the resources they need,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “This will ultimately allow us to reinvigorate and preserve the residential infrastructure in these communities for years to come.”

CIC is the leading lender for affordable multifamily housing in Chicago’s low and moderate income communities. Since 1984, CIC has provided $1.5 billion to rehab and preserve 63,000 units of affordable housing throughout the Chicago area.

An active supporter of CIC for many years, The Leaders Bank remains on the roster of CIC’s 40 investors including 31 banks that are renewing their support as well as 9 banks making investments for the first time.

“The Leaders Bank is proud to be partnering with CIC on this important initiative which allows us to support critically needed affordable housing through a very efficient market-based model that has proven very effective for more than 35 years,” said Charles Hall, Executive VP at The Leaders Bank and Chairman of the CIC Multifamily Loan Committee.

How a Community Bank Protects Small Business During a Crisis

In a crisis such as the one the U.S. has experienced over the past months, small businesses are among those most negatively impacted. They often have the fewest resources, like cash flow and capital, upon which to draw in any economic freefall. Their hold on survival is often the most tenuous, their life expectancy in a crisis the briefest. COVID-19 has heaped additional harm on these small enterprises, because many were forced to close during the lockdown. And just as many were reopening, some were hurt by episodes of civil unrest.

In any financial crisis, owners of small businesses depend for stability, and often their very continuance, on the assistance community banks are uniquely able to offer. Community banks are based in the same towns and cities as the small businesses they serve. They get to know business owners in a way other financial institutions can't. In some cases, they know those owners so well they can anticipate their most pressing needs during a crisis.

One community banking institution – Oak Brook, Ill.-based Leaders Bank – helped its small business customers weather the storm unleashed by the pandemic in a big way. The assistance the bank provided came through three critical initiatives: Provision of remote banking services, aid in accessing state and federal financial assistance programs and guidance in identifying and avoiding pandemic-fueled scams and frauds.

Safe, secure remote banking

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans came to identify "social distancing" as key to maintaining health, both theirs and that of their loved ones. 20-LB-551 blog whitepaper photo phone

Leaders Bank's array of online, mobile and phone banking services has made it possible for those who wished to avoid physical interaction to do so. "Any customer has the option to use online banking or mobile deposit services with the bank," says Gina R. Phipps, the bank's vice president, treasury management, who notes the bank has "definitely" seen a surge in remote banking use. "[Customers] can sign up online and automatically enroll . . . At least 90 percent of our customers use some form of electronic banking."

Some Leaders Bank customers had long shown a preference for visiting the bank in person almost every business day. Even they are now using remote banking, Phipps says.

In addition, the bank went to extra lengths to protect those who chose to physically visit the institution, and to simultaneously safeguard the health of bank employees.

Plexiglas shields divide the reception area from the tellers. Hand sanitizers are available to all. The staff wears cloth masks. Janitors sanitize door handles and other surfaces every hour, and undertake a deep cleaning each weekend.  To limit exposure, Leaders Bank encouraged employees to work from home a few days a week.

Accessing assistance

When the federal government announced small business assistance through the CARES Act's Paycheck Protection Program, Leaders Bank did not wait for small enterprises to request aid. "We were collecting information from clients before the program even became available," Phipps says. "We were reaching out to customers to see if they needed help. We collected information [from the businesses] so we were ready to submit applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) when the program became available.

20-LB-551 blog whitepaper photo"The bank understood what information the SBA required and worked with its customers to ensure they furnished those materials. As a result, 100 percent of qualified small businesses that applied for the Paycheck Protection Program through Leaders Bank were approved.

"Now we are keeping in contact with those customers as new information regarding their loan forgiveness becomes available," says Charles B. Hall, Leaders Bank executive vice president. "Customers are not in this alone. We will help them navigate this uncertain landscape."

Avoiding frauds

Scams are a concern to small businesses in every economic climate. But evidence shows crises like the pandemic bring fraudsters out in even greater numbers. Fraud protection services routinely provided by Leaders Bank are even more valuable in these times.

"Today's environment presents greater challenges," Phipps says. "Customers click on the wrong item in an email, or they get spam and risk a computer takeover. Fraud is everywhere, all the time."

The bank helps its small business customers by monitoring accounts, employing services like positive pay, ACH filters and IP restrictions on log-ins from unauthorized computers, Phipps says. It also uses multiple-factor authentication and a token or app on a phone that can help the bank confirm the customer is who he or she purports to be.

In time, COVID-19 and its associated financial emergency will subside, and life will return to a new normal. When it does, small businesses that managed to carry on will know their partners at community banks nationwide are always there for their customers, even in critical times.

Located at 2001 York Road in Oak Brook, The Leaders Bank is a premier community commercial bank catering to private business owners, their families and other entrepreneurs. The Leaders Bank offers a full spectrum of traditional and customized banking services, Internet-based banking, and online bill payment. To contact The Leaders Bank, call (630) 572-5323 or visit

The Leaders Bank Acts Quickly to Provide Chicagoland Small Businesses with PPP Funds

Community banks across the U.S. have been in the forefront of arranging critical Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding for local small businesses during the pandemic. One prominent Chicagoland example is The Leaders Bank, a community bank headquartered in Oak Brook, IL. 20-LB-022 NR photo1

When the PPP's first phase launched April 3, Leaders moved rapidly to approve their first loan by the next day.  As of April 30, the Bank has received SBA approval of 100% of its qualified applications through the first and second PPP phases.  In addition, it has kept all loan applicants fully informed through the complete process. Although Leaders is not as large as the mega-banks, it has the capacity to fund loans up to the PPP maximum of $10 million per business, says Executive Vice-President Charles B. Hall.


PPP defined

As COVID-19 shuttered businesses and caused tens of millions to lose their jobs, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program.

Administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the program's first two phases earmarked up to $659 billion in loans for U.S. small businesses, independent contractors, sole proprietors and self-employed. Loans must go to payroll, mortgage, rent and utility costs, and are forgivable if firms use the proceeds to pay eligible expenses in accordance with the terms of the program.

The loans are processed through large and small financial institutions. Community banks have proven an effective arranger of loans for many of the companies applying.

CNBC's Jim Cramer noted community banks are doing a great job with the loans. "Community banks are well ahead" in the program, Cramer says.


Personal assistance

The Leaders Bank's success in processing PPP applicants' loan requests stands as the direct result of its trademark personal 20-LB-022 PPP NR photo2 touch, says President Bill Gleason. "We reached out to our customers," he reports. "We didn't just sit back and wait for them to call us. We asked them, 'Do you need us and how can we help?' That's the difference."

The speed of the PPP program's creation and roll-out, as well as its complexities, did not lend themselves to small businesses going it alone. "It's helpful when a community bank can lend its expertise to small businesses," Gleason says. 

Thus far, The Leaders Bank has helped manufacturers, contractors, professional services firms, retailers, not-for-profits, and sole proprietors. The Bank has arranged PPP funding for companies as large as 193 employees and has made loans up to $6 million per business. “Whether or not a third round of SBA loans becomes available, The Leaders Bank stands ready to help small businesses gain funding to see them through COVID-19,” Hall says.

Located at 2001 York Road in Oak Brook, IL, The Leaders Bank is a premier provider of commercial banking services to private business owners, their families and other entrepreneurs. The Leaders Bank offers a full spectrum of traditional and customized banking services, Internet-based banking, and online bill payment. To contact The Leaders Bank, call (630) 572-5323 or visit

How Manufacturers Can Work with Community Colleges and High Schools to Train and Recruit

A strong manufacturing sector remains critical to the economic future of Illinois and the nation. Skilled workers are needed to keep manufacturing strong. But great uncertainty surrounds whether there will be sufficient skilled workers to meet employers’ demand.

20-LB-550 stock photoIn a study titled “The Skills Gap in Manufacturing 2015 and Beyond,” Deloitte reported over the decade from 2015 to 2025, 3-1/2 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will have to be filled. The skills gap is expected to mean two million of those jobs will go unfilled.

If Illinois manufacturers are to effectively deal with an anticipated drop in the state labor work force of 337,000 by 2025, they must take fullest advantage of opportunities to partner with community colleges and high schools to train and recruit workers.

This white paper is dived into two sections. In the first, the paper will examine how different courses of study are matched to different manufacturing needs. In the second, the paper probes how manufacturers can work with schools to gain trained workers.

Creating study programs

Joint efforts between schools and manufacturers are a natural, says Jim Nelson, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) vice president for education and workforce policy, and executive director of the IMA Education Foundation. Collaboration is based, he says, on “the desire of the community college to serve its constituency, and the desire of manufacturers to create a [recruitment] source of first choice . . . That’s why it behooves manufacturers and community colleges to coalesce in creating programs of study.”

Those programs may be launched either at the behest of a manufacturer or of a school. It works both ways. Whether courses are credit or non-credit depends on the job for which the training is created. For instance, a manufacturer may need only one tool-and-die maker every five years. “It doesn’t make sense for a community college to offer an ongoing program of study in tool-and-die making unless it has a dozen manufacturers in its market area,” Nelson says. Instead, a non-credit course in tool-and-die making is the solution. Creating the course would likely take 30 to 60 days, unless the college had offered it before, and could roll it out with any necessary updates, he adds.

By contrast, credit courses might be created by a community college or high school when a new manufacturing firm moves to the area and needs numerous workers not being trained elsewhere.  Today, given the switch to digital platforms, manufacturers in sectors that don’t employ machinists or welders – the workers traditionally trained in such programs -- are seeking programs of study. Nelson says food processing and packaging, plastic and polymers and electronics “all are now looking at community colleges as well as high schools as training grounds for future employees.”

Introducing a new credit course can take up to a year.  “When you’re offering something for credit toward a degree, there are added steps a local community college must take with the Illinois Community College Board to get that course approved for credit,” Nelson says. “That takes time, because you’re looking at the universal practice standards that course must meet to issue credits toward a college degree.”

Through the state’s ICATT Apprenticeship Program, IMA and the German American Chamber of Commerce partnered with 13 community colleges across the state, from Mount Vernon to Palatine, to create a training pathway for the position of Industrial Maintenance Technician (IMT). IMTs understand not just how to make widgets, but how the hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical and electrical systems behind the widget-making machinery all work together, Nelson says.

The three-year apprenticeship program results in both an associate’s degree from the community college and internationally-recognized industry credentials.

In Illinois, certified IMTs start at an average salary of $54,000 a year, as compared to machinists’ starting pay of $42,000 to $46,000, and welders’ $32,000 to $40,000. “But any of these occupations can get into six figures quickly with overtime,” Nelson says.

Building relationships

How can manufacturers best leverage the training and recruitment opportunities that community colleges and high schools in their local areas present?

The answer is to meet often with community college and high school vocational program administrators to convey the changing nature of the knowledge and skills they need, Nelson says.  Such meetings can be informal or part of a more structured forum. An example of the latter was a late February “Employer Summit” convened by IMA and Palatine-based Harper College, in which employers were invited to come guide administrators in preparing curricula to train the next generation of manufacturing workers.

How are required knowledge and skills changing?

In metal forming and joining, for instance, workers once needed to possess knowledge of algebra and geometry, Nelson says.

“Today, the move to digital manufacturing means they must have statistics and quantitative analysis skills, so they can analyze the data the machine is providing and make adjustments to assure quality is maintained on every piece -- every time.”

Located at 2001 York Road in Oak Brook, Leaders Bank is a premier commercial bank catering to private business owners, their families and other entrepreneurs. Leaders Bank offers a full spectrum of traditional and customized banking services, Internet-based banking, and online bill payment. To contact Leaders Bank, call (630) 572-5323 or visit

Chicagoland Agency Empowers Women for Success


20-LB-013 NAMI DuPage Ucorked Uncapped_Poised for Success
Donations and volunteers at Poised For Success® help women seeking employment find work apparel.

     Poised For Success® is dedicated to helping women who are on assistance, including veterans having served our country and transitioning to the civilian workforce, domestic violence survivors, and single moms. This nonprofit agency provides, at no charge, quality interview and work-attire clothing to women striving to obtain employment. What the women share is a desire to be self-sufficient and financially independent through employment. The services go beyond the clothing, giving them an enormous boost of self-confidence and self-worth that empowers them to take on the challenges that await them.

     The agency, having provided services since 1998, relies on community contributions and a strong base of volunteers to deliver its unique and personalized service. Located in Lombard, PFS works one-on-one with clients to help select outfits, from head to toe, for job interviews and serves over 200 women yearly.

     Clients are referred by social service agencies for visits by appointment, says Gail Foster, Executive Director. "There is an amazing transformation that takes place when we find the right clothes for the right person.”

     Among area companies supporting the organization is Oak Brook's Leaders Bank. Bank Executive Vice President Kathy Hardy has been volunteering for over 12 years. "It's really moving to hear the women share the successes they've achieved through our services," Hardy says.

     Clothing donations are accepted on the second Saturday of every month, from 10:00am to 1:00pm. For more information, visit 


Lessons Learned from Financial Fraud Can Prevent Your Company from Falling Victim

Company owners and managers attempt to be laser focused on all aspects of their businesses. However, financial fraud
prevention can take a back seat to other issues. Few have the time or assets to adhere to every precaution, from network 19-LB-561 Stop Fraud Whitepaper photosecurity to routing and account number protection. Moreover, most aren’t aware of the profoundly negative ramifications of financial fraud on business fortunes. Combine these factors, and we have a recipe for the steadily increasing incidence of financial fraud afflicting U.S. companies.

Just one means of perpetrating fraud, business email compromise (BEC) led to $1.3 billion in business losses in 2018, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report.

How swiftly has that crime grown? The 2018 losses were twice those recorded in 2017, when BEC generated $676 million in losses.

However, there’s good news. By implementing the correct proactive systems to combat financial fraud, companies can help avoid becoming fraud victims.


Criminal acts

Theft of checks remains a common way check and ACH debit fraud occurs, says Mary M. Schuh, vice president of operations at Leaders Bank in Oak Brook, Ill. Checks sent through the mail for companies’ business use can be stolen.  Before the companies are aware their checks have not arrived at the correct address, the fraudsters have altered these checks by means of a procedure known as “check washing.” The altered checks bear new names but identical account numbers, and are used to drain those accounts.

“One thing we’ve noticed about check fraud is that more and more of the fraudsters are able to remotely deposit checks, making it easier to get paid on them,” Schuh says.

“Right now, customers do not want to walk into the bank. They want to take a picture of the check with their phone. The teller doesn’t have a chance to physically handle a check to determine whether it’s authentic.”

Routing and account number theft can lead to another increasingly prevalent scam, ACH debit fraud, says Gina Phipps, Leaders’ vice president of treasury management. “Someone has your routing number and account number, and they put through a payment from that account to themselves,” she says. “Or fraudsters act as legitimate business customers of the bank and request money be wired to them.”


Email peril

Business email compromise, perpetrated through viruses, ransomware attacks, phishing or other nefarious means, is another increasingl
employed scam. Cyber security.jpg

A July 2019 report by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) found BEC has grown dramatically. Suspicious activity reports describing BEC soared from 500 a month in 2016 to more than 1,100 a month in 2018. Manufacturing and construction were the most targeted industries for BEC in both 2017 and 2018.

The use of fraudulent vendor or client invoices increased from 30 percent of FinCEN sampled incidents in 2017 to more than 39 percent last year, the report stated.


Prevention pays

Because some of the methods that fraudsters use are virtually impossible for their targets to stop on their own, many businesses partner with their financial institutions to protect their accounts.

The steps companies should take to combat financial fraud include check positive pay, ACH blocks or filters and updating anti-virus software.

To implement check positive pay, customers upload to their bank all information about check recipients, check amounts and payment dates, Phipps says. “The bank can confirm transactions are legitimate,” she adds.

ACH blocks or filters protect customers from ACH debit fraud. “The customer tells us who is allowed to debit their account,” Phipps says. “If a request for an ACH transfer comes from someone other than those on the list, the bank checks electronically and automatically to learn if the customer wants to pay or return that exception item. “

On the email side, updating anti-virus software and confirming customer wishes before automatically approving emailed requests are key precautionary steps, Schuh says.

Frequently, companies won’t institute protections until they become targets, Phipps says. “By then, they may have suffered financial losses,” she adds. “Implement check positive pay, ACH filters and review bank accounts daily to avoid financial loss.”


In summary, when companies conduct the correct proactive procedures, they can greatly reduce their chances of being victims of financial fraud.

Originally published in Illinois Manufacturer magazine:

Chicago High School Students Earn While They Learn

Leaders Bank
Students in the Corporate Work Study Program at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep High School gain valuable experience working at local area businesses, such as Leaders Bank.

    Question: What's more valuable than a great education? Answer: A great education that includes experience in real-world work settings. That's the lesson enjoyed by student workers at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep (CTK), a high school on Chicago's West Side.

   More than 200 Chicago-area employers participate in the school's Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP), shared with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Each student is matched with an employer, serving as a reliable, affordable and productive employee one day each week in the employer's workplace. CTK students earn the majority of their tuition through their participation in the Corporate Work Study Program.    

   "Think of that! You're in high school, yet interacting with adults and learning about the work world," says Bill Gleason, president of Oak Brook, Ill.-based Leaders Bank, a corporate participant in CWSP.

    Leaders Bank pays to have a student at work every day, even though the 41-employee bank doesn't have enough tasks to keep students busy more than two days weekly. "We pay for students to work elsewhere on the other days, so they are still getting experience at non-profits, tutoring or working at food banks," Gleason says.

    Leaders Bank's CWSP students perform important duties. "The students use our imaging system, purging images associated with accounts from past years that have been closed." says Bob Hamaker, senior vice president of operations. "We’ve never done anything like that in the past. The students working for us are allowing us to catch up."

     Students do more than work. They get to know the full-time Leaders Bank employees, as mentors and on a social level by taking part in days when the bank brings in pizza or stages potluck lunches. "The students gain good experience about the social aspect of working in an office," Gleason says.

     What’s ahead? “We would love to expand the program, having the CTK students work here Monday through Friday as we grow,” Hamaker says. “giving more opportunity for these young men and women.”