Pandemic unemployment fraud may top $400B, according to experts

Unemployment fraud during the pandemic could easily reach $400 billion, according to some estimates, and the bulk of the money likely ended in the hands of foreign crime syndicates—making this not just theft, but a matter of national security, Axios reports.   

When the pandemic first hit, states weren’t prepared for the unprecedented wave of unemployment claims they were about to face. They all knew fraud was inevitable, but decided that getting the money out to people who desperately needed it was more important than laboriously making sure all of them were genuine.

Blake Hall, CEO of ID.me, a service that tries to prevent this kind of fraud, tells Axios that the U.S. has lost more than $400 billion to fraudulent claims. As much as 50% of all unemployment monies might have been stolen, he says.

Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, estimates that at least 70% of the money stolen by impostors ultimately left the country, much of it ending up in the hands of criminal syndicates in China, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere.

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

Much of the rest of the money was stolen by street gangs domestically, who have made up a greater share of the fraudsters in recent months.

“Widespread fraud at the state level in pandemic unemployment insurance during the previous administration is one of the most serious challenges we inherited,” said White House economist Gene Sperling. Read the full story.