COVID relief fraud has been lucrative for scammers, as the Secret Service has discovered that approximately $100 billion in COVID relief funds have been fraudulently acquired, and there are reportedly "900 active investigations related to pandemic fraud."
“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 29 years and worked some complex fraud investigations for 20 plus years, and I’ve never seen something at this scale,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Dotson. “There’s no doubt that the programs were easily accessible online. And so, with that, comes the opportunity for bad actors to get into that mix. It was necessary to try to get these funds out to people that were truly hurting, and no fault of anybody. It’s a wide range because the pot was so big. You not only have your typical transnational organized groups and domestic organized groups, criminal groups, but you have individuals that decided to take advantage of that. So, there’s many different patterns and investigative intelligence that we develop that I can’t really go into. But we’ve mapped out kind of some of the different characteristics of different groups.”
This overlooks cryptocurrency fraud as some thieves are immediately transferring funds to their crypto wallets, making it even more difficult to track.
“I would say the primary difficulty is the sheer scope of the amount of fraudulent you know, loans, or unemployment insurance benefits ever distributed,” he said. “And the number of individuals that receive those, whether they were a money mule, or the actual recipient is just enormous.”