Friday 23 September 2022 04:47 AM Federal watchdog admits $45.6 BILLION in pandemic unemployment benefits was ... trends now
Fraudsters stole more than $45 billion in unlawful unemployment claims during the pandemic, the Labor Department concluded on Thursday - while warning that the actual figure may be even higher.
Criminals used inventive measures to access the COVID benefits, with more than 205,000 Social Security numbers that belonged to dead people being used to claim the cash.
Some schemes saw the Social Security numbers of prisoners being used, despite them being ineligible for the unemployment benefits.
The latest figure is more than double the earlier estimate, issued by the Labor Department last year, when they concluded that $16 billion had been stolen.
Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat representing Oregon who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said the new report proved the urgency of improving security checks on unemployment benefits.
'I've long said we need a national set of technology and security standards for state systems to better prevent this kind of fraud, and we're going to keep working to get our reforms passed,' he said.
A woman walks past a shuttered shop in Manhattan on June 2, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic
Long lines of people wait for COVID testing in the Bronx on April 19, 2020
The Labor Department inspector general said 190,000 investigations have been opened into fraud since the pandemic began.
Separately, the Justice Department on Thursday said that 1,000 people have now been charged with COVID-related fraud.
Those charged include a 61-year-old Massachusetts woman, who filed 25 unemployment claims for people who were not even living in the state.
Audri Ford-Victory, from Springfield, swindled $215,246 from the system, with the money going to people who were not eligible.
'Ford-Victory received kickback payments in exchange for submitting the fraudulent