Foreign Hackers Swipe Millions in Unemployment Benefits

Secret Service says a Nigerian fraud ring has been very busy filing fraudulent unemployment claims
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2020 8:27 AM CDT
Foreign Hackers Swipe Millions in Unemployment Benefits
In this March 17, 2020, file photo, people wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

With the United States furiously shoveling money at millions of recently unemployed Americans, the New York Times reports that very employed foreign hackers sensed an opportunity to siphon millions of dollars in benefits in "an immense, sophisticated attack." Using personal data like social security numbers that were likely previously hacked, the Secret Service says the Nigerian fraud ring is filing claims for still-employed people and taking advantage of direct deposit in "a gut punch," as the Employment Security Department commissioner of Washington state, a primary target, terms it.

One university in Washington saw 400 of 2,500 employees targeted, reports the Times. Other states targeted include Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. "Whoever it is seems to be fairly sophisticated and good at what they are doing," says a Rhode Island official. A Secret Service memo estimates "potential losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars." Those targeted often receive official confirmation notices in the mail. "I called my boss and said, ‘Am I getting laid off and I just don’t know about it?'" said one Seattle resident who was still very much employed. Read more at the Times. (More unemployment benefits stories.)

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