Scammers have ripped off as much as $36B in unemployment benefits this year

US states are fighting back against an unemployment benefits scam originating from Nigeria.

It sounds like something from a James Bond movie: A shadowy Nigerian crime ring called “Scattered Canary” has used the pandemic to steal millions from the government.

Scammers have ripped off as much as $36B in unemployment benefits this year

Washington state was hit first. Unemployment requests flew to 10x the expected rate, as Scattered Canary and others used false claims to leach $600m in just 2 weeks.

Since then, scammers have targeted all 50 states, stealing thousands of identities and siphoning billions from the unemployed.

Scattered Canary only needs your name

Once they have that, “It’s over. It’s easy money,” one insider said. The process looks like this:

  • They pay $2 in crypto to get your Social Security number.
  • Search FamilyTreeNow or TruthFinder for more (i.e., mother’s maiden name)
  • File hundreds of unemployment requests in your name using variations on a single Gmail address.

About 1 in 6 attempts works. Once the money is released, they launder it through a mule network using Venmo, PayPal, Green Dot, and even gift cards.

Not all mules are foreign (or even aware of what they’re doing); last month a 70-year-old Mississippi woman was arraigned after allegedly moving $79k+ in fraudulent money.

10% of unemployment claims could be fraud

According to USA Today, that would equal ~$36B this year.

States are fighting back. Illinois has stopped 341k+ fraudulent claims since March, and Washington has recouped $357m.

We need 007 on this ASAP.

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