(Last Updated On: September 12, 2023)

Fraudsters Steal $135 Billion In Fake COVID19 Jobless & Unemployment Claims

By SCARS Editorial Team, portions Washington Post

Fraudsters Stole $135 Billion in Unemployment Benefits During the Pandemic

A fraudster’s picnic! The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread economic disruption, leading to millions of Americans filing for unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, this also created an opportunity for fraudsters to steal billions of dollars in government aid.

According to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), fraudsters may have stolen as much as $135 billion in federal unemployment aid during the pandemic. This represents roughly one out of every seven dollars set aside for jobless Americans.

The GAO’s estimate is based on a sampling of federal data, and the agency acknowledges that the “full extent of [unemployment] fraud during the pandemic will likely never be known with certainty.” However, the report provides a detailed overview of the methods that fraudsters used to steal billions of dollars in government aid.

One common method was to file fraudulent claims using stolen identities. Fraudsters would gather personal information from victims, such as their Social Security numbers and birthdates, and use this information to create fake unemployment claims.

Another common method was to use identity theft software to generate fake identities. This software can create realistic-looking documents, such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates, that can be used to file fraudulent claims.

Fraudsters also used phishing scams to trick people into giving up their personal information. In these scams, fraudsters would send emails or text messages that appeared to be from legitimate government agencies. The emails or text messages would often contain a link that, when clicked, would take the victim to a fake website that looked like a government website. Once the victim entered their personal information on the fake website, the fraudsters would use it to file fraudulent claims.

The GAO’s report also found that fraudsters were able to steal billions of dollars in unemployment benefits because of weaknesses in the government’s systems.

For example, the report found that the government did not have adequate safeguards in place to prevent identity theft. The report also found that the government did not have a way to quickly identify and investigate fraudulent claims.

The GAO’s report is a wake-up call for the government. It is clear that the government needs to do more to prevent and investigate unemployment fraud. The government needs to invest in new technologies to prevent identity theft and to identify fraudulent claims more quickly. The government also needs to improve its coordination with state governments to better prevent and investigate fraud.

The theft of $135 billion in unemployment benefits is a serious crime that has had a devastating impact on many Americans. The government must take action to prevent this from happening again.

That $135 billion could have put another $1,000 in the pocket of real people instead of mostly going overseas.

According to the Washington Post:

In the earliest days of the pandemic, Congress approved a historic bipartisan expansion of the nation’s unemployment insurance system, adding hundreds of dollars to out-of-work Americans’ weekly checks while awarding benefits to those who previously wouldn’t have qualified.

The money offered a critical financial lifeline to millions of Americans during what became the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But the new benefits also proved to be an alluring target for scammers, who immediately seized on the government’s haste and generosity to steal unprecedented sums.

The criminals focused their efforts on states, which had struggled starting that spring to process a deluge of applications for federal unemployment aid, according to the GAO’s report on Tuesday, echoing many of the conclusions from past oversight reviews. To obtain checks they did not deserve, malicious actors often masqueraded as real people, misrepresenting themselves as Americans out of a job, people in prison and even the deceased, the watchdog found.

In total, the U.S. government may have lost between $100 billion and $135 billion, according to the GAO estimate. That equated to about 11 to 15 percent of the roughly $900 billion spent on unemployment insurance between April 2020 and May 2023, the period during which the U.S. government declared a public health emergency.

The watchdog came to its figure by sampling federal data, acknowledging that the “full extent of [unemployment] fraud during the pandemic will likely never be known with certainty.”

In addition to the GAO report, there have been a number of other reports and investigations into unemployment fraud during the pandemic. These reports have all found that fraud was widespread and that the government’s systems were not adequately equipped to prevent it.

In response to the problem of unemployment fraud, the government has taken some steps to improve its systems. For example, the Department of Labor has created a new task force to investigate unemployment fraud. The department has also implemented new identity verification procedures for unemployment claims.

However, more needs to be done to prevent unemployment fraud. The government needs to continue to invest in new technologies and to improve its coordination with state governments. The government also needs to educate the public about the risks of unemployment fraud and how to protect themselves.

The theft of $135 billion in unemployment benefits is a serious crime that has had a devastating impact on many Americans. The government must take action to prevent this from happening again.

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