Suspects Busted in Multi-Million-Dollar COVID Scam

Unemployment fraud now ranks as the 4th biggest federal COVID expenditure.

FOUNDATION FOR ECONOMIC EDUCATION – A group of scammers in New York City allegedly ripped off millions from the state’s super-charged pandemic welfare system. They were busted after (rather foolishly) posting pictures of themselves with massive money stacks on social media and now face prosecution.

“A group of young men is accused of ripping off $2 million in COVID-19 relief funds by stealing personal information from people in the assistance program, funneling their money to personal bank accounts, and withdrawing the cash at banks in Brooklyn and Queens,” Fox Business reports. “The scams began last June and continued through April.”

The scammers’ target was the state’s unemployment benefits system. During the pandemic, the government greatly increased benefit payouts and hastily expanded eligibility to new categories of workers. In its rush to get taxpayer money out the door, the government created a target-rich system flush with cash and light on verification.

These scammers in New York only got caught because they were particularly, erm, flagrant in their criminal activity. They made multiple unusually large withdrawals at ATMs, triggering monitors, and openly posted the huge influx of cash on social media.

I wish I could tell you that this story was just a one-off. But countless similar examples of rampant fraud have emerged during the government’s massive “emergency” spending spree. The expansion of unemployment benefits alone has lost a truly astounding amount of money to fraud.

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A report shows that the federal government has potentially lost up to $200 billion in taxpayer money to scammers ripping off the system. For context, that’s equivalent to $1,400 lost per federal taxpayer. (There goes your “stimmy” check!).

And the total money lost to fraud is more than 5 times as much as the feds spent on vaccine development. According to the American Enterprise Institute, “unemployment fraud” now ranks as the 4th biggest federal COVID expenditure out of more than 17 different categories.

Taxpayers have every right to find such flagrant waste of our money frustrating and demand accountability. But there’s a bigger-picture takeaway here, too.

When politicians are making the case for their next big spending plan, they’re quick to emphasize the upsides, real and imagined, but never mention the ugly realities that will accompany another blowout spending binge. The truth is that when it comes to big government, fraud, waste, and dysfunction are baked into the cake.

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Coronavirus scams spreading as fraudsters follow the headlines

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by John Waggoner and Andy Markowitz, AARP, Updated May 18, 2021

AARP – As of May 17, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged nearly 494,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments, 72 percent of them involving fraud or identity theft. These scams have cost consumers $439.8 million, with a median loss of $350.

Fraudsters are using the full suite of scam tools — phishing emails and texts, bogus social media posts, robocalls, impostor schemes and more — and closely following the headlines, adapting their messages and tactics as new medical and economic issues arise.

For example, with the COVID-19 vaccination in full swing, federal and state agencies are warning of a flood of vaccine scams, with phony websites and email campaigns promising easy and early access to coronavirus shots.

Authorities also anticipate a fresh wave of stimulus scams as the $1.9 trillion Amercan Rescue Plan Act brings a new round of relief payments, enhanced unemployment benefits and small business loans.

Here are some coronavirus scams to look out for.

Vaccine claims and bogus cures

Since the start of the pandemic, fraudsters have been bombarding consumers with pitches for phony remedies, and that’s unlikely to abate as the vaccines roll out and new tests hit the market.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says consumers should be on the lookout for these signs of vaccine scams:

Requests that you to pay out of pocket to receive a shot or get on a vaccine waiting list
Ads for vaccines in websites, social media posts, emails or phone calls

Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of COVID-19 vaccines

The FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have sent dozens of warnings to companies selling unapproved products they claim can cure or prevent COVID-19 … Click here to read more. 

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