At the peak of the pandemic, there was a very clear issue of COVID-19 scammers who stole billions in what was supposed to be relief for those struggling. The Biden administration just announced that they would begin to target those who took those funds without the proper eligibilty for them. This includes those who committed identity theft, criminal fraud, and scamming. The Biden administration has very clearly stated that these are a criminal offense and that covid-19 scammers will be caught and brought to justice through every method available.
How did COVID-19 scammers steal relief money?
COVID-19 scammers used a number of different tactics to steal money that was intended to be used for relief. The word “steal” might imply that they went through a lot of trouble to find a way to get access to these funds, but most often, this was just them applying for and receiving the money without actually being qualified to do so. Programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), or Unemployment Insurance were the most common ways scammers stole funds.
If you received one of the three stimulus checks sent back in 2020 and 2021, you may remember hearing cases of people having their money stolen. Scammers used different methods varying from applying for multiple checks, tricking people into giving them their checks, or simply taking it from them by force. Scammers often have very creative ways of getting money from their victims, and this was no different for COIVD-19 scammers.
How are they targeting these scammers?
President Bident announced that he would be pledging $1.6 billion into law enforcement programs that will specialize in tracking COVID-19 scammers. The President is calling on these special strike force teams to target scammers in a number of different ways. These strike force teams will use various data analysis tools to pinpoint identity theft, fraud, and other schemes COVID-19 scammers have used to steal taxpayer dollars.
There have already been a few government organizations that have been working towards targeting COVID-19 scams since 2021, such as the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), or the Department of labor. These programs have brought thousands of different COVID-19 scams to light. This new push by the Biden administration is likely going to see thousands of more scams come to light, resulting in billions of dollars being recovered.
Why is this important?
This decision by the Biden administration to push back stronger at COVID-19 scammers is a very important one. For one, it lets COVID-19 scammers, and scammers of all kinds know that they didn’t get away scot-free. It is also important to taxpayers, as this money was ultimately stolen from them. By taking larger steps to bringing these scammers to light, the Biden administration is not only cracking down on a large criminal investigation, but they are also bring justice to the millions of Americans who were unable to receive certain fundings they actually needed. The pandemic hasn’t truly ended yet, and its effects are still being felt to this day, so many are still struggling even though things are somewhat more under control.
It is certainly clear now that the Biden administration isn’t playing around when it comes to recovering funds stolen by COVID-19 scammers. The administration has even stated that they would look into increasing the statute of limitations for COVID-19 scams from 5 to 10 years. This will give the special task forces more time to investigate larger and more complex cases in order to bring more scammers to justice. It isn’t completely certain where the recovered funds will go to, but it is likely that they will be used towards paying for the programs that recovered them, and other government-related expenses.
This decision by the Biden administration will hopefully set the precedent for what needs to be done should there ever be any more government-issued relief funds. Hopefully the next time the government feels the need to assist those in need of it, they will be able to more effectively crack down on those who try to take advantage of these programs.