(LibertySociety.com) – When the COVID-19 pandemic began, millions of Americans lost their jobs either temporarily or permanently. State systems crashed, completely overwhelmed by the number of people applying for benefits. As if that weren’t bad enough, some of the people trying to get the benefits didn’t even qualify.
In March, the US Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General reported at least 10% of the $896 billion the federal government allocated for state unemployment insurance programs might have been “paid improperly” over the last year. The Wall Street Journal reported that much of that could be attributed to fraud carried out by people inside and outside of the United States.
The Labor Department report explained the increased unemployment benefits gave “individuals and organized criminal groups a high-value target to exploit.” A new report reveals just how bad the fraud was.
Secret Service Helps Return Billions
On Wednesday, May 12, the Secret Service reported the agency helped recover in excess of $2 billion in stolen relief funds. The Secret Service returned the money to the states where fraudulent claims were made. Speaking with CNBC, Special Agent Roy Dotson said the theft was “typical of the cyber fraud” the agency deals with every year, but the federal relief aid compounded it. He also explained that the $2 billion is a “conservative estimate” of the stolen money, and the agency is continuing to investigate.
Cybercriminals carried out the fraud by stealing identities from people who both qualified for unemployment and had not filed for it.
In addition to the money the Secret Service recovered from unemployment fraud, the agency also confiscated more than $640 million in funds from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program and the Paycheck Protection Program. Federal law enforcement officers have opened more than 1,400 investigations into fraud related to the three programs.
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