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Home LATEST NEWS Feds Say $45.6 Billion In Pandemic Unemployment Aid Was Likely Stolen

Feds Say $45.6 Billion In Pandemic Unemployment Aid Was Likely Stolen

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

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

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

First launched under President Donald Trump, the emergency jobless 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 relief, which provided an extra $600 a week in extra benefits, was far more generous than typical unemployment programs, which typically replace only a fraction of a worker’s lost earnings.

Many of the government’s pandemic relief programs proved attractive targets for criminals, including the Paycheck Protection Program, which targeted small businesses, and a federal aid program to provide food to children in need. Federal authorities this week charged 47 people with stealing $250 million in food aid that had been earmarked for low-income children.

Feds: Scammers took COVID money intended for hungry children


With the unemployment programs, scammers used a number of techniques to siphon money designated for unemployed workers, according to the inspector general. The biggest losses are due to workers who fraudulently claimed unemployment aid 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 allowed to claim pandemic relief 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, amounting to $28.9 billion in fraudulent payments. Another $16.3 billion was linked to people who submitted what the report calls “suspicious email accounts.”

“These types of accounts in particular allow users to set email addresses that can hide personal information, including the user’s identity,” the report says. “Suspicious email addresses can also be used to file multiple UI claims.”

Claims for the dead

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

“Scrutiny of the data identified $139.4 million in potentially fraudulent benefits paid to claimants using these Social Security numbers,” the report says.

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


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