Nigerian fraudsters now target US unemployment insurance sites

May 20, 2020
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Nigerian cybercriminals are said to have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars in the US, targeting unemployment insurance sites with fraudulent claims, a report by the US Secret Service has revealed.

According to the report, electronic crimes task force had identified “criminal actors targeting state unemployment insurance program funds” using stolen personal information.

“Criminals will use stolen personally identifiable information … to file fraudulent state unemployment claims. Crooks will then use social engineering techniques to recruit unsuspecting individuals to launder illicitly obtained funds in order to conceal the identity, source and destination,” the agency said.

The Secret Service circulated a memo last week warning that the criminals appear to be connected to a Nigerian crime ring and may have already stolen hundreds of millions of dollars, security researcher Brian Krebs first reported.

The memo said the fraudsters were primarily targeting the state of Washington, as well as North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Florida.

The Washington state agency overseeing unemployment started to realize the extent of the fraud last week, when people who are still employed started calling to ask why they received confirmation of unemployment benefits, according to The New York Times.

In addition to using stolen credentials to fraudulently file for unemployment, the scammers reportedly also recruit “money mules,” or people who transfer illegally obtained money on behalf of others to obscure the paper trail, according to the Secret Service.

The agency is warning states to remain on high alert for fraud schemes, noting that every state could be vulnerable.

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