The Corner

Politics & Policy

Your Government at Work

This, via Axios, is amazing:

Criminals stole as much as half of the unemployment benefits the U.S. pumped out over the past year, Axios’ Felix Salmon reports.

  • Why it matters: Unemployment fraud during the pandemic could easily reach $400 billion, according to some estimates. 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.

What’s happening: When the pandemic hit, states weren’t prepared for the unprecedented wave of unemployment claims.

  • They all knew fraud was inevitable, but decided 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, which tries to prevent this kind of fraud, tells Axios that America has lost more than $400 billion to fraudulent claims. As much as 50% of all unemployment money is suspected stolen, he says.

  • Haywood Talcove, 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 tells Axios.

  • 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.

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