Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Fraud Could Top $200B, Firm Says

By  //  March 22, 2021

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Lawmakers have committed a total of $486B in funding for unemployment benefits, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

A significant portion of unemployment benefits to Americans struggling during the coronavirus pandemic may be getting stolen by fraudsters, according to new data.

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ID.me, a computer security firm which verifies worker identities across 19 states, roughly 75% of the national population, finds that more than $200 billion in federal assistance for unemployed Americans may have been pocketed through fraud. The finding is more than triple the official government estimate of $63 billion, based on the 10% pre-pandemic fraud rate.

The firm notes that roughly 20% of the fraud is linked to breached personal data, up to 10% is through social engineering, and 2.5% are linked to face matching, where a criminal tries to use a mask, video, or image of the victim. Up to 30% of claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to Americans who are self-employed and contractors, are fraudulent, according to ID.me.

A spokesperson for ID.me did not immediately return FOX Business’ request for comment.

The American Enterprise Institute estimates the $200 billion figure could make unemployment assistance fraud the fourth largest “spending program” during the pandemic, behind the Paycheck Protection Program, total unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.

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States targeted by fraudsters with some of the highest per week unemployment benefits include California, Washington and Massachusetts.

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