THE FOCUS: OUR EDITORIAL
The Fraud Year
2020 is full of fraud in critical aspects of our lives
The 2020 was full of fraud, from voter fraud to inflated COVID data. Add to that is the unemployment benefit fraud. California is currently suffering a staggering amount of $31 billion in unemployment benefit fraud.
"Of the $114 billion in unemployment paid by California since March, approximately 10% has been confirmed as fraudulent. An additional 17% of the paid claims have been identified as potentially fraudulent,” Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency Julie Su said in a California Employment Development Department.
From March to September 2020, California may have sent out about $10 billion in fraudulent unemployment benefits, with some of the funds even going to organized crime organizations in China and Russia.
California hired Blake Hall’s ID.me to investigate fraud in October. Hall’s firm found that since October, roughly 30% of claims investigated were fraudulent. His firm has since blocked 463,724 fraudulent claims, which would have tallied up to more than $9 billion paid out.
More than $500 billion in regular and pandemic-related unemployment aid has been distributed so far, according to Treasury Department data. As the new round of enhanced benefits worth $300 a week included in a pandemic stimulus package was passed by Congress, more unemployment benefits are coming.
According to the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, from March to November 2020, at least $36 billion pandemic-related unemployment payments had been siphoned away from out-of-work Americans by fraudsters. Given the new revelation of the massive fraud in California, the amount could very well be at least $50 billion, or at least 10% of the total disbursed payments.
How did the fraudsters manage to steal such a staggering amount? First, they obtained stolen identities from the dark web. Thieves can buy the “fullz” (dark web slang for a full set of stolen personal data that includes a person’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, and more).
The supply of stolen identities has rapidly increased over the last 15 years. In 2019 alone, over 164 million sensitive records were exposed in the U.S. Which means personal records of more than half of Americans have been compromised. Even the governor of Arkansas’s identity was used to file for UI in his own state.
When COVID-19 hit, states were forced to process 10 to 15 times the typical number of UI claims. On top of this massive challenge, states were asked to disburse Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA, part of the CARES Act) to self-employed Americans who are not covered by traditional UI programs. Just like stolen identities, people also could purchase fake tax returns on the dark web if they wanted to show previous self-employment “income” and fraudulently claim $600 per week in PUA funds.
The false claims clog the system. Staff on the front lines have faced an overwhelming increase in fraud attempts and unrealistic pressure from officials to push funds out to keep the economy afloat.
"There is no sugar-coating the reality: California did not have sufficient security measures in place to prevent this level of fraud," Su said.
Su added that foreign and national criminal rings “were at work behind the scenes working relentlessly to steal unemployment benefits using sophisticated methods of identity theft.”
When you have a system that has to handle a huge spike in the number of items that need to be processed and is cloud with temptation of so many people to commit wrong doing, fraud is bound to happen. This brings us to another much more serious fraudulent issue in 2020: election fraud.
Let us pause for a moment and recall the 2020 election fiasco. In the 2016 US Presidential election, approximately 33 million ballots were cast by postal vote, or about a quarter of all ballots cast. A total of 318,728 ballots (1% of those submitted) were rejected. In the 2018 mid-term election, there were 30,377,407 absentee/mail-in ballots of which 430,190 (1.4%) were rejected
In 2020, 46% of the total votes (or about 73,431,000) were cast by mail. That’s more than double of the previous general election. Reasonably, this could clog the system just like the unemployment insurance claims. As a result, the rejection rate would be expected at least the same as in 2016 or higher.
As it turned out, the rejection rate was lower. The rejection rates in Michigan and Wisconsin were only 0.4% and 0.1%, respectively, lower than 2016 and 2018.
Likewise, in 2016, the rejection rate in Georgia was 6.42%, but somehow, with a much higher number of mail-in voting, the state miraculously managed to reduce the rate to 0.35%. That is a success by a factor of 18!
The calls to forensically audit the ballots and votes have fallen on deaf ear. There are 81 total cases of election fraud, where 30 are still active. And yet, not one single court has allowed evidence to be argued.
Sadly, that’s a bigger problem that the fraud itself. When you don’t allow an audit of fraud, it’s highly conceivable that much worse fraud will be committed in the future. As such, all future elections will be just sham elections.
How scammers siphoned $36B in fraudulent unemployment payments from US
NY says it stopped 42,000 fraudulent unemployment claims worth $1 billion during coronavirus crisis
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