Fraudulent unemployment claims likely cost taxpayers $45 billion during the pandemic, a Department of Labor inspector general reported.
The investigation looked at a timeframe running from March 2020 through April 2022.
The investigators found widespread schemes were used during the pandemic to steal money. The most common scheme was to file for unemployment in multiple states, which alone amounted to an estimated $28.9 billion lost.
Payments were also allegedly made to people using the identities of the deceased and illegible federal prisoners. Fraudsters used their names and social security numbers to obtain checks.
An estimated $16 billion was given away to fraudsters who used suspicious email accounts. These accounts allowed them to hide their personal information.
The federal government expanded unemployment benefits during the height of the pandemic. That included supplemental unemployment checks that went over and beyond state benefits. The U.S. also allowed people who rely on freelance employment to file for unemployment.
The U.S. paid out $872.5 billion in enhanced unemployment payments.