As many countries struggle due to the flood of jobless claims caused by the coronavirus crisis, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the situation, targeting unemployment insurance sites to siphon money.
In the United States, the Secret Service has uncovered that attackers are making fraudulent claims, riding along with the wave of millions of Americans filing unemployment in recent weeks. Criminals have since taken advantage of the chaos brought about by high demand and limited staffing.
The U.S. Secret Service has revealed the perpetrator -- a Nigerian crime ring committing a massive fraud against several unemployment insurance programs. The organization estimates that the losses will potentially amount to millions of dollars.
KrebsOnSecurity has seen a memo from the Secret Service being circulated to field offices across the U.S., saying that the ring has been using stolen Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII).
According to a spokesperson for the company, cybercriminals have been using social engineering tactics to entice people to "launder illicitly obtained funds in order to conceal the identity, source, and destination."
In the memo, it was stated that the fraud ring had been targeting the states of Florida, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington. It's also suggested that the criminals operate similarly to the crooks specializing in filing fraudulent tax refund requests with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a scam that costs the country millions of dollars in revenue each year.
A few of the states victimized by the fraud ring are those that are currently experiencing some of the highest levels of unemployment claims in the U.S. Rhode Island is by far suffering the most, with approximately 31% of its workforce filing for unemployment. Washington is also seeing a spike in unemployment claims, with nearly 30% of its workforce currently out jobs.
These types of scams operate by recruiting individuals, who are most of the time victims of online scams themselves or people out of options for income-generating activities. These people become the fraud ring's "money mules," who will then forward the stolen money to the criminals.
The attack was uncovered by the Washington state agency overseeing unemployment last week when people started calling them to report they have received confirmation for their unemployment benefits.
The U.S. Secret Service is issuing a warning to American states to be wary of online scams and attempts of fraud, saying that each state could be targeted anytime.