ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Scammers are stealing billions of tax dollars and taking full advantage of the pandemic to take money to help those who were financially devastated by the COVID-19 outbreak.
News 4 Investigates identified problems with poor unemployment benefits. Now scammers are finding ways to send unemployment money to themselves while using other people’s identity.
Governor Mike Parson is urging desperate Missourians to pay, but his response is not a satisfactory answer for some lawmakers who will be calling top heads of state on the carpet on Tuesday to testify about unemployment benefits.
“It’s really scary,” said Evaughn McBride, who recently received a letter stating that her husband’s unemployment benefit had been approved. The problem is that he was not registered as unemployed. In fact, her husband, who is disabled, has not worked in years and is not even entitled to unemployment.
“It just amazes me that people can get away with things like this,” said McBride.
Same goes for Mona Walker, who was shocked that scammers had fraudulently filed a jobless claim on her behalf.
“It’s an injury, it drives me crazy. Honestly, it really just pisses me off, ”said Walker.
The women who both live on Illinois Metro East are far from alone. In a recent report, an estimated $ 36 billion was paid nationwide for fraudulent jobless claims. However, new data shows that the state of Illinois was particularly hard hit. The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced between March 2020 and January 2021 that nearly 1 million fraudulent claims were identified and stopped in Illinois alone.
“At that point in time this year billions and billions of dollars have been lost to this type of fraud,” said Crane Hassold, a former FBI member and current head of threat research at cyber security firm Agari.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Missouri’s overpayment for unemployment continues to be a major problem …
News 4 Investigates has been reporting to you for weeks on Missouri’s jobless error: accidental overpayments to unsuspecting people. But Hassold said it was different. Personal information is stolen from the dark internet and then used by people, often overseas, for benefit and big money.
“You see it very much as a job. That way you can make money, ”said Hassold.
To find out how to activate the system, Hassold contacted the scammers himself and provided audio of an interview with a man from Nigeria.
“We don’t know them. We don’t know who they are, ”said the man.
Expressing little remorse, he says the scheme is simple: use stolen identities and then take advantage of outdated or inadequate systems of government.
“You don’t verify anything. What they are currently checking is is the name and SSN number the same? Even when they request a driver’s license, they request photos. We can edit this in Photoshop from here and paste it into them. They don’t really check it out, ”he said.
Lawmakers and leaders vow to help as thousands of Missouri residents are asked to repay unemployment benefits.
“One of the things we saw specifically in Illinois is the fact that a driver’s license is not required to make a claim,” said Hassold. He also said Illinois was a target due to the lack of rigorous screening measures.
“A lot of money was paid out straight away and then they said, ‘Wait a minute, this person isn’t really unemployed,’ based on some letters they sent,” he said.
“You have to do something,” said McBride.
McBride said it appears she caught the scam before any money was paid out on her husband’s behalf. Still, she says the fact that her identity has been stolen is scary.
“We have a steady income and people come in and start taking his money. We’d lose our house and everything,” she said.
And since the scams are clearly so prevalent, she and Walker want others to be careful.
“Check your email because at any other time I would have thought it was junk mail and I threw it away,” McBride said.
News 4 requested an interview from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, but was told that no one was available in time for this story. In a statement, a spokesperson wrote: “IDES has already made a number of cross-matching efforts and continues to make strides in implementing new solutions to further frustrate fraudsters and prevent fraudsters from taking action against fraudulent claims.”
In a press release on their website, they say they apologize for the fear this may have caused and assure people that they will no longer owe any money due to a fraudulent claim on their behalf.
If this has happened to you, we have resources for you here.
We will also turn to lawmakers to see how this can be prevented in the future.
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