Pandemic Plunder: Billions in Bogus Unemployment Claims

It turns out a good portion of the expanded COVID unemployment benefits was stolen. Just how much is still a question, but a group of Republican lawmakers, including Woodlands Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), are demanding an investigation into unemployment fraud. They estimate anywhere from $89 billion to $400 billion was stolen in fraudulent claims, calling it the "greatest theft of American tax dollars in our nation's history."

There is no doubt the added trillions of government dollars flooding the economy during the pandemic have led to rampant fraud and abuse. "I have been in the fraud space for over two decades," says Eva Velasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "I have not seen fraud rates like this in the entire time that I've been in this space."

Velasquez blames the government for outdated and lax security. "Government needs to do a better job in looking at where the vulnerabilities are in their systems," she tells KTRH. "When fraudsters find systems that are not shored up in a way to protect people, they think I've got all this data, I'm going to leverage this's a system that is vulnerable and it's lucrative."

The bottom line, according to Velasquez, is the government for too long has focused on convenience over security in its systems. "Making sure you are able to help all of your constituents, while at the same time making sure the process does not open us up to fraud...that's a very hard balance, but it can be done," she says. "And it certainly can be done better than we're doing it right now."

Photo: E+

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