An estimated $45.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits was likely stolen by fraudsters who used the social security numbers of dead people and inmates to claim the aid, a government watchdog said in a statement Wednesday. report.
The report, issued by the Inspector General of the Department of Labor, said the loss total had been revised upwards from a June 2021 assessment that about $16 billion had been stolen through fraudulent claims.
“Hundreds of billions in pandemic funds attracted fraudsters who wanted to abuse the… [unemployment insurance] program, resulting in historic levels of fraud and other improper payments,” Labor Department Inspector General Larry Turner said in a statement. pronunciation.
First rolled out under President Donald Trump, the emergency aid was designed to help the millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the government shutdown in the early days of the pandemic. The government support, which provided an additional benefit of $600 per week, was much more generous than typical unemployment programs, which usually replace only a fraction of an employee’s lost income.
Many of the government’s pandemic relief programs have proved attractive targets for criminals, including the Paycheck Protection Program, which targeted small businesses, and a federal aid program to provide food to needy children. Federal authorities have indicted 47 people this week for:in food aid intended for low-income children.
In unemployment programs, scammers used a number of techniques to divert money intended for unemployed workers, according to the Inspector General. The biggest losses are attributable to workers fraudulently claiming jobless aid in more than one state, the report found. Employees who worked in multiple states and lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 were only allowed to claim 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, amounting to $28.9 billion in fraudulent payments. Another $16.3 billion was linked to people signing up with what the report calls “suspicious email accounts.”
“These specific account types allow users to set up email addresses that can hide personal information, including the user’s identity,” the report said. “The suspicious email addresses can also be used to request multiple UI claims.”
Claims by the dead
Nearly 206,000 Social Security numbers from deceased people were used to make fraudulent claims, the report said.
“Examination of the data identified $139.4 million in potentially fraudulent benefits paid to claimants who used these Social Security numbers,” the report said.
Scammers also used the Social Security numbers of “potentially ineligible federal inmates” to file $267.3 million in unemployment claims, the report said.