UPDATED 6:07 PM PT – Thursday, June 10, 2021
Half of the unemployment money distributed during the COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly been stolen with many believing the theft was initiated by criminals and funneled out of the country. On Thursday, reports said more than $400 billion in U.S. aid was lost to fraudulent claims.
Experts suggest at least 70 percent of the funds were sent to criminal networks in other countries including China, Nigeria and Russia. The Secret Service said an alleged Nigerian crime ring committed fraud on unemployment insurance programs by using Social Security numbers belonging to the victims of identity theft.
A Secret Service investigation out of Charleston, https://t.co/k3MjGoRVYH has led to 9 individuals charged with using cyber romance scams to defraud 200 victims out of a total of $2.5 Million. Read more: https://t.co/n1kC2tP40p pic.twitter.com/ZrpIQVSml6
— U.S. Secret Service (@SecretService) June 3, 2021
The Secret Service released a statement that said, “it is assumed the fraud ring behind this possesses a substantial PII database to submit the volume of applications observed thus far.” They warned “the primary state targeted so far is Washington, although there is also evidence of attacks in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Florida.”
The increase in fraud comes as many states are having trouble processing a huge amount of jobless claims resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Secret Service announced it is extremely likely every state is vulnerable to this scheme and will be targeted if they have not been already.