Washington State Reportedly Lost ‘Hundreds Of Millions’ To Nigerian Unemployment Fraud Scheme

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Olivia Rondeau Contributor
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Washington state officials claimed that “hundreds of millions” of dollars have been lost to a Nigeria-based fraud scheme that used stolen information to file false unemployment claims, according to a Seattle Times report.

The commissioner of the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD), Suzi LeVine, made the shocking announcement during a press conference on Thursday afternoon, reported The Seattle Times. While she didn’t disclose the exact amount of money lost, LeVine said that the amount was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million that the ESD reported losing to a different fraud scheme in April. (RELATED: More Than Three Million Americans File For Unemployment, Shattering Previous Record)

The U.S. Secret Service issued an alert last week, identifying Washington as the main target for a Nigerian fraud ring that specializes in stealing from state unemployment insurance programs, according to an earlier report from The New York Times.

“It is assumed the fraud ring behind this possesses a substantial PII database to submit the volume of applications observed thus far,” the Secret Service warned in statements obtained by Krebson Security. “The primary state targeted so far is Washington, although there is also evidence of attacks in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Florida.” (RELATED: Gov. Cuomo Tells Unemployed Americans To ‘Go Take A Job As An Essential Worker’)

However, LeVine said that EDS officials realized that something was wrong before the alert from the federal government, once they received communication from Washington employers and employees, reported the Associated Press.