Reports have it that Fraudsters likely stole $45.6 billion from the U.S. unemployment insurance program during the COVID-19 pandemic using tactics such as using the Social Security number of deceased individuals, a federal watchdog said on Thursday.
About a year ago, a possible fraud of almost 16 billion dollars was discovered. A report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s inspector general found that potentially fraudulent payments increased by $29.6 billion.
The fraudsters allegedly applied for billions of dollars in unemployment benefits in multiple states at once, while some received benefits using the identities of deceased and eligible inmates. The fraudsters also relied on suspicious emails that were difficult to trace, the watchdog said in its report.
“We determined that the Social Security numbers of 205,766 deceased individuals were used to apply for UI (Unemployment Insurance) pandemic benefits,” the report added.
The American Worker Assistance Program began in 2020 during the early days of the coronavirus epidemic.
Earlier this year, the US Department of Justice asked federal prosecutor Kevin Chambers to lead the department’s efforts to help investigate fraudsters who used the pandemic as an excuse to increase government aid programs.
In May 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland launched the COVID-19 Anti-Fraud Task Force. The United States is investigating many cases of fraud related to US government assistance programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, unemployment insurance, and Medicare.
Earlier this week, federal prosecutors indicted 7 defendants accused of stealing $250 million from a government aid program meant to feed poor children during the pandemic.
Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future was charged with masterminding the plot. Its founder, Aimee Bock, has also denied any wrongdoing. In March, the Department of Justice announced that it had filed more than 1,000 criminal cases related to unemployment benefits during the pandemic.