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Report: US secret service probes Nigerian crime ring over fake unemployment claims

Report: US secret service probes Nigerian crime ring over fake unemployment claims
May 17
11:30 2020

The US Secret Service is investigating the activities of a Nigerian crime ring suspected to have exploited the system to file for unemployment claims.

The New York Times reports that the attackers are suspected to have used information about US citizens such as social security numbers to file for unemployment claims on behalf of people who have not been laid off.

It is suspected that social security numbers of first responders, government personnel and school employees were compiled from previous cyber hack activities.

This comes at a time when states employment security departments are under pressure to attend to applications for unemployment benefits.

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The number of people filing for unemployment claims in the US has surged to 36.5 million since the coronavirus pandemic started.

“It is assumed the fraud ring behind this possesses a substantial personally identifiable information database to submit the volume of applications observed thus far,” KrebsonSecurity quoted the secret service to have said.

“The primary state targeted so far is Washington, although there is also evidence of attacks in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Florida.”

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Some false claims were discovered when victims received notifications that their claims were being processed even though they had not filed one or when the victims tried to legitimately file for benefits and they discover that claims have been paid to unknown bank accounts.

The bank accounts are said to belong to mules; people, often in the United States, who are used as intermediaries for money laundering after making connections with fraudsters online.

Washington, on Thursday, halted payment of unemployment claims for two days to vet filed applications.

“In the state of Washington, individuals residing out-of-state are receiving multiple automated clearing house deposits from the state of Washington unemployment benefits programme, all in different individuals’ names with no connection to the account holder,” the secret service said.

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“The banks targeted have been at all levels including local banks, credit unions, and large national banks. It is extremely likely every state is vulnerable to this scheme and will be targeted if they have not been already.”

According to the US treasury department, $48 billion was paid to citizens in various unemployment programs in April alone.

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