A “well-orchestrated” COVID-19-related fraud targeting multiple American states has been traced back to Nigeria, an internal US Secret Service memo said.
The memo, seen by reporters, was reportedly sent to Secret Service’s field offices across the US on Thursday, May 14.
The Secret Service said the fraudsters are exploring the COVID-19 pandemic to commit massive fraud against by targeting unemployment insurance programmes.
“The United States Secret Service has received reporting of a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to commit large-scale fraud against state unemployment insurance programs,” the memo said.
A California-based cybersecurity firm Agari said on Tuesday, May 19, that “some if not all” of those who committed the fraud are part of a Nigerian fraud group Scattered Canary.
Although Washington State was the primary target, evidence of the fraud was seen in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Florida.
To carry out the scam, the perpetrators, posing for instance as the State of Washington Unemployment Benefits Programme, sent individuals residing out-of-state Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposits in different names without connection to the account holders.
The fraudsters then filed for unemployment claims in different states using Social Security Number and other personal identification information (PII) of their victims, which included first responders, government and school employees.
“It is assumed the fraud ring behind this possess a substantial PII database to submit the volume of applications observed thus far,” the memo said.