A group of fraudsters has launched a highly sophisticated attack to swipe unemployment benefits running into millions of dollars in the US, according to a report.
Federal authorities detected the complex theft scheme by foreign agents and the Secret Services warned that it could lead to "potential losses in hundreds of millions of dollars".
According to a New York Times report, the attackers used detailed information like social security numbers to realize the claims. Authorities believe that the stolen data could have been obtained during past cyberattacks.
A special agent for the Secret Service, Roy Dotson, told the Times that the investigators were still trying to identify who was behind the attacks.
Millions of Dollars Siphoned Off
The attack on the state unemployment systems is happening at a time when the authorities are trying to process thousands of claims due to the unprecedented unemployment crisis sparked by the coronavirus. Most of the payments have been going into direct-deposit accounts. Washington State realized the glitch in the system when employed people started calling the agency in the state to enquire why they had received payment confirmation in their mail.
The memo obtained by the Times said the fraudulent activity could be the handiwork of a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring. The secret service has so far identified Washington as the primary target of the operation. Investigators detected evidence of the attacks in Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. The agency cautioned that every state could be a target of the fraudulent scheme.
Confused workers have been calling their employers and officials from the system asking about the payment they had received despite being employed.
The service also believes that there are middlemen in the operation who are presently in the US. The investigators noted that the ring possessed personal identification information of several people in the country.
The memo explained: "It is assumed the fraud ring behind this possesses a substantial P.I.I. database to submit the volume of applications observed thus far."
Washington State has one of the highest weekly benefit amounts. States are particularly vulnerable to the operation as they hurry to make payments to people who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. States have recently tried to eliminate delays in the payment as there has been a drastic increase in the number of unemployed people in the country. Previous delays were due to the system trying to weed out any chance of fraudulent activity while making the claim.