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Half of pandemic unemployment money may have been stolen: report

Half of pandemic unemployment money may have been stolen: report

Fraudsters may have plundered as much as half of the unemployment benefits that the US pumped out in a hurry during the pandemic.

Blake Hall, CEO of ID.me, a fraud-prevention service, told Axios that the US has lost more than $400 billion to crooked claims.

The US may have been robbed of as much as half of all money given out through unemployment benefits during the pandemic, Hall told the outlet.

Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, estimated that most of the stolen money, at least 70 percent, probably ended up outside the US, according to Axios.

Much of the pilfered funds likely went to criminal syndicates in China, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere, he said, according to the outlet.

“These groups are definitely backed by the state,” Talcove told Axios.

A lot of the money was also likely stolen by US street gangs, who have been taking a greater share of the stolen funds in recent months, Axios reported.

California State Employment Development Department
The US may have been robbed of as much as half of all money given out through unemployment benefits during the pandemic, according to one executive.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Criminals were likely able to defraud the government by stealing personal information and using it to impersonate would-be unemployment claimants, Axios reported.

Other groups, the report said, may have tricked legitimate claimants into handing over their personal information.

Low-level criminals, or so-called mules, would then be given debit cards and asked to withdraw money from ATMs, the report said. That money could then be transferred abroad, often via untraceable cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

Unemployment application
Criminals were likely able to defraud the government by stealing personal information and using it to impersonate would-be unemployment claimants.
AFP via Getty Images

It’s long been assumed by many politicians and government watchdogs that criminals would make off with at least some of the emergency pandemic relief funds.

State unemployment systems were ill-prepared for the demands of the pandemic. It was widely assumed that some of the hundreds of billions doled out would slip through the cracks, but many politicians said it was critical to get the money as quickly as possible.

Now, the latest estimates reveal the scope of the fraud that took place over the past year.

Much of the pilfered funds likely went to criminal syndicates in China, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere.
Alamy Stock Photo

About the author

Erin Fox

From television to the internet platform, Erin switched her journey in digital media with News Brig. She served as a journalist for popular news channels and currently contributes his experience for News Brig by writing about the tech domain.

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