Nearly $200 billion in pandemic unemployment payments ‘could have been improper’
The OIG has over 200,000 open investigations into unemployment insurance payments
(InvestigateTV) — More than $76 billion in pandemic unemployment aid may have been paid to fraudsters, according to the latest semi-annual report from the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Inspector General.
In the 152-page report, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said more than $888 billion dollars in federal and state unemployment insurance was paid during the pandemic period.
Per the report, at least $191 billion of that “could have been improper payments.”
Office of Unemployment Insurance Modernization Deputy Director Andrew Stettner said their office is working hard to ensure security measures are put into place, both federally and across multiple states.
“We are working collaboratively with them to put in new protections. To protect the program and everyday collab with them to bring those who committed crimes, especially during the pandemic to justice,” Stettner stated.
He said their office has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to states to put in new protections, identity verification being chief among them.
“We know that if we can ensure that the person who is applying for unemployment benefits is the person that they say they are, that can prevent a lot of different types of fraud,” Stettner explained.
Eva Velasquez with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) said she’s glad to see both the Department of Labor and the OIG taking unemployment fraud seriously.
“Even though we’re not seeing the massive numbers that we were seeing in 2021, the baseline has increased,” she said. “So, we’re at this new, heightened baseline where the fraud is still on going in the state departments. At least the attempts are still being made! Because the thieves found that it was lucrative.”
Velasquez said that while state and federal governments work to strengthen security measures, there are steps people can take to protect themselves against fraud:
- Use unique passwords across all online accounts
- Make passwords 12 characters or longer
- Turn on multi factor authentication on all accounts
The ITRC has additional information on how to prevent identity theft.
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