Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, announced that state officials have busted a “massive criminal enterprise” this week.
Over July 4th weekend, the Maryland Department of Labor noted a huge uptick in out-of-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claims. That naturally raised a red flag, and investigators discovered that almost 50,000 fraudulent claims were flooding their system.
They believe that the personal information used by the scammers comes from unrelated data breaches. Scammers are able to buy blocks of stolen identities on the so-called “dark web” and use them for fraudulent purposes. The breach was not from the Maryland Department of Labor itself.
“This criminal enterprise, seeking to take advantage of a global pandemic to steal hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars from taxpayers is despicable,” Gov. Hogan said.
“And we will continue to work with both the U.S. Attorney and the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General on this ongoing investigation, both here in Maryland and in other states across the country to do whatever it takes to ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, detecting and stopping this fraud ensures that money remains available in these funds for the tens of millions of deserving people all across America who actually need the help.”
According to reports, scammers attempted to steal over $500 million in unemployment benefits. That money was earmarked by the state to help residents who experienced job loss or insecurity because of the pandemic. To steal money from the most vulnerable people during a time of crisis is truly despicable.
Hogan added that the state, in “exposing this illegal scheme and notifying the federal authorities, has helped shed light on related fraudulent criminal activities in at least a dozen other states” spread out “across the country.”
Other states have been targeted by scammers, notably Washington, Maine, and Massachusetts. However, fraud is a big business that’s only growing bigger during the pandemic.
The scammers targeting the Maryland Department of Labor used information that was previously stolen in data breaches. The best way to keep your information safe is to exercise common sense.
We’ve highlighted dozens of phishing and shopping scams during the pandemic. Although criminals keep trying to find new angles to steal your information, their playbook remains consistent. Once you learn their basic tricks, such as disguising malware in an email attachment, you can protect your personal and financial information.