Unemployment benefits handed out by the federal government over this past year may have been largely stolen by criminals.
As much as half of the coronavirus-related stimulus aid intended for people in the United States never reached them, according to some new estimates. Instead, it was pocketed by crime syndicates who mostly took the money and fled the country.
Blake Hall, the CEO of ID.me, a verification service that often prevents this type of fraud, told Axios that more than $400 billion of U.S. aid was lost to fraudulent claims.
Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a company that provides predictive insights and fraud prevention, said most of those stolen funds, at least 70%, were then sent to criminal networks in other countries, including China, Nigeria, and Russia.
Over the past year, the Trump and Biden administrations have signed off on aid packages to bolster depleting state unemployment insurance. The aid was supposed to help people withstand the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns but was quickly recognized as a lucrative exploit for criminals.
A combination of criminal strategies, either by falsely claiming to need aid or stealing the identity of someone who needs it, resulted in states approving unemployment aid to the wrong people.
States were aware that criminals would attempt to steal some of the aid, but they prioritized speed in handing it out over verifying if the person requesting it had a legitimate need.
Several states have fraud-detection services to detect and prevent these sorts of activities, but several do not. These were the most targeted.