Federals say $45.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits were likely stolen

Federals say $45.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits were likely stolen

An estimated $45.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits was likely stolen by fraudsters who used Social Security numbers of dead people and prisoners to claim aid, a government watchdog said Wednesday in a report. report.

The report, issued by the Labor Department’s inspector general, said the loss total was revised up from a June 2021 assessment that about $16 billion was stolen by fraudulent claims.

“Hundreds of billions in pandemic funds attracted fraudsters seeking to exploit the [unemployment insurance] program, resulting in historic levels of fraud and other improper payments,” Department of Labor Inspector General Larry Turner said in a statement.

First launched under President Donald Trump, the emergency unemployment aid was intended to help the millions of Americans who lost their jobs in government shutdowns in the early days of the pandemic. The government aid, which provided an extra $600 a week in fringe benefits, was far more generous than typical unemployment programs, which often replace only a fraction of a worker’s lost income.

Many of the government’s pandemic aid programs have proven to be attractive targets for criminals, including the Payment Protection Program, aimed at small businesses, and a federal aid program to provide food to underprivileged children. This week, federal authorities charged 47 people with stealing $250 million in food aid for low-income children.

Feds: Scammers took COVID money meant for starving children


With the unemployment programs, the scammers used a series of techniques to divert money intended for unemployed workers, according to the inspector general. The biggest losses are due to workers who fraudulently applied for unemployment benefits in more than one state, according to the report. Workers who worked in multiple states and lost their jobs due to COVID-19 were only able to apply for pandemic aid in one of those states.

But the investigation also found that more than 990,000 Social Security numbers were used to claim unemployment benefits in two or more states, totaling fraudulent payments of $28.9 billion. Another $16.3 billion was linked to people who signed in with what the report calls “suspicious email accounts.”

“These specific account types allow users to establish email addresses that can hide personal information, including the user’s identity,” the report said. “Suspicious email addresses can also be used to request various UI claims.”

Claims of the dead

Nearly 206,000 Social Security numbers of deceased persons were used to make fraudulent claims, the report noted.

“Data analysis identified $139.4 million in potentially fraudulent benefits paid to claimants using these Social Security numbers,” the report said.

The scammers also used Social Security numbers of “potentially ineligible federal prisoners” to file $267.3 million in unemployment insurance claims, according to the report.

Source : www.cbsnews.com

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