mobsters, Chinese hackers and Nigerian scamsters have used stolen identities to
defraud the US government and steal tens of billions of dollars given as COVID
benefits, according to an NBC news report. The scamsters allegedly wired the
money overseas. The biggest targets of such frauds were the government’s
unemployment benefits, according to officials.

Also Read | Fred regains tropical storm status, likely to hit Florida on Monday night

The federal
government is still accounting the exact amount siphoned off from the
government’s treasury, but as per estimates, more than $900 billion in
pandemic-related unemployment relief has been stolen. Law enforcement officials
say that at least half of the amount has been stolen by foreign criminals.

Also Read | Thousands left without power as storm rampages Illinois

“This is
perhaps the single biggest organised fraud heist we’ve ever seen,” security
researcher Armen Najarain told NBC News. Najarain tracked a Nigerian firm that
allegedly stole millions out of more than a dozen states.

Also Read | NWS creates new categories for thunderstorm warnings

The scope
of COVID relief fraud has become apparent in the United States over some time
now. However, the workings of an international criminal nexus behind the
operations have only just become apparent. “This is like letting people just
walk right into Fort Knox and take the gold and nobody even asked any
questions,” said Blake Hall, CEO of, a company which has contracts with
27 states to verify identities.

to officials, both domestic and foreign fraudsters exploited the weak
unemployment verification system. As states decreased checks to allow for more
people to benefit from the policies, the systems became more vulnerable.
Further, the pressures of the pandemic put officials under pressure to expedite

Also Read | NWS creates new categories for thunderstorm warnings

In such a
situation, both international and domestic fraudsters were able to take
advantage of the process. In the US, prison inmates and drug gangs exploited
the opportunity while abroad, fraudsters impersonated jobless Americans using
stolen identity information in bulk within the dark web. Information regarding
birthdates, social security numbers, addresses and other private information
found way to the dark web through data breaches.