Covid-related fraud could reach $163bn, report reveals


Pandemic fraud could reach $163bn, according to a report from the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Congress created various programmes to provide unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to individuals who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Additions to the programmes included expanded eligibility, an extension the length of time an individual could claim benefits, and added a weekly supplement to existing state UI benefits. The programmes issued nearly $655bn in benefits.

However, the report revealed that federal and state oversight work has shown that fraud in pandemic-related UI programs is rampant. For example, the Department of Justice indicted eight individuals – two who are prisoners – for conspiring to scam $25m worth of unemployment benefits from California.

In July last year, it emerged that Americans lost a total of $487.9m through fraud over the past 18 months, according to new data from the Federal Trade Commission.

Its Covid-19 and Simtmus reports data claims there were more than 544,000 reports made to the FTC during the time period. The most reports in a single day was Monday March 29 2021, where 3,079 reports were documented.

The most common report was in regards to fraud, with 326,974 incidents. The remaining reports were composed identity theft (68,262) incidents, do not call scams (16,048) and the remaining 134,973 were classified as ‘other’ reports.

The rise in fraud post pandemic has been felt not just by consumers, but companies too. A survey by fraud prevention solutions provider Riskified found 82% of retailers believe they have seen a climb in fraud attempts since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Riskified claimed the survey – which was conducted on 4,000 consumers and 400 retailers across the UK, the US, France and Germany – highlights how widespread online retail fraud as well as the extent of its financial impact and how its viewed in the eyes of shoppers and retailers.

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