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Watchdog uncovers $5.4 billion in potential Covid loan fraud – Reuters

Nearly 70,000 non-existent or questionable social security numbers were used to obtain the coveted documents

Fraudsters using fake Social Security numbers may have obtained $5.4 billion in pandemic loans from two of America’s Covid-19 relief programs, according to a report released Monday by watchdog group Pandemic Response Action Committee. The report preceded a House of Representatives hearing on unnecessary pandemic spending.

The report found that the Covid-19 Emergency Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program disbursed loans to 69,323 “questionable“Social Security Numbers, where SSNs were not federally issued at all or did not match the actual holder’s name or date of birth.

The figure represents nearly a third of the 221,427 SSNs the group flagged as potentially fraudulent after submitting loan applicant data to the Social Security Administration to confirm whether personal information on the 33 million applications matched the listed SSNs. .

The PRAC acknowledged that the two pandemic relief funds were unusually “sensitive” to fraud due to “high urgency” of the situation and noted that the process of implementing VMS verification agreements between agencies can be “long.”

Having such information-sharing agreements in place before an emergency would ensure timely access to audit information and improve the integrity of federal programs, protect taxpayer funds from improper payments and fraud, better ensure that benefits only be paid to those who are truly eligible and would reduce the incidence of identity fraud in government programs, helping to protect victims of identity theft“, concluded the watchdog.

The United States’ pandemic loan programs have distributed nearly $1.2 trillion to small businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic, as well as opportunists who have taken advantage of lax oversight to plunder funds intended for Americans in difficulty.

The latter included a Miami resident charged last month with defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program of $2.1 million, which he spent on a Lamborghini, Rolexes and designer clothes. Another Houston Lamborghini fan has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for spending a stolen $1.6 million on an SUV made by the iconic sports car brand, Rolex and strippers, and a Las Vegas resident pleaded guilty to stealing $2 million for a Bentley, Tesla and luxury condos.

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