Department of Labor IG suspects more than $45B in fraudulent UI claims handed out during pandemic

The Inspector General identified $29.6 billion in potentially fraudulent claims since June 2021

The Department of Labor Inspector General reported it suspects at least $45 billion in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims have been handed out since March 2020. 

A new report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) addressed its concern with the Employment and Training Agency (ETA) failing to respond to previous reports that billions of dollars in fraudulent claims were being paid and for failing to provide accurate and timely information. 

In June 2021, the OIG reported it found roughly $16 billion in potentially fraudulent claims. The claims resulted from people using social security numbers to file for unemployment insurance in multiple states, on the behalf of dead people, using suspicious email accounts and from federal prisoners. Since that report, the OIG has identified $29.6 billion more in potentially fraudulent claims, according to a Sept. 21 report. 

U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported the consumer price index, which measures the price for everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rents, rose 8.3% in August from a year ago.  (Photo by Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty Images / Getty Images)


After struggling to procure data about claims in a timely manner, or receiving incomplete data when requests were fulfilled, the OIG said it is concerned fraudulent claims will continue to be filled. 

"ETA’s lack of sufficient action significantly increases the risk of even more UI payments to ineligible claimants," the OIG wrote in its report. "Our identification of the additional potentially fraudulent payments emphasizes the need for increased ETA engagement and assistance to mitigate fraud and protect the UI program’s integrity."

Waiting in line to fill out unemployment forms

JULY 24: Faustino (R), who is currently unemployed, waits in a socially distanced line to enter a bookkeeping shop near the U.S.-Mexico border in Imperial County, which has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, on July 24, 2020 in Calexico, Califor (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images / Getty Images)

The OIG estimates a total of $872.5 billion in pandemic-related unemployment insurance has been paid out since March 2020. 

While the office has been continuing to monitor potentially fraudulent claims going out to the four problem areas it identified in June, it has not received data from the Department of Justice or Bureau of Prisons to update its estimates of fraudulent claims being paid to federal prisoners. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) building

The Department of Justice (DOJ) building on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

However, the other three problem areas the OIG previously identified have continued to see billions of dollars of potentially fraudulent claims. 

Between March 2020 and April 2022, the OIG found people used 991,793 Social Security numbers in multiple states to file for $28.9 million in benefits.


Over the same time period, people used 205,766 Social Security numbers to file for $139.4 million in benefits, and people used 1,714,188 Social Security numbers to file for $16.2 billion in benefits.

Though it doesn’t have updated figures, the OIG reported in June that Social Security numbers of potentially ineligible federal prisoners were used to file claims for $267.3 million.