COVID-19 pandemic unemployment checks end up being “a magnet for rip-off artists,” as identity thieves exploited the rushed benefits the government was not ready for in a bit, The Washington Post reported Sunday. [tweet_embed] May 18, 2022[/tweet_embed] An estimated $163 billion in pandemic-related benefits were deceivingly obtained, according to the Labor Department. Just $4.1 billion of that has been recovered, only 2.4% of the estimated stolen, raising concern that the government will not get most of it back. “The unprecedented explosion of unemployment claims, combined with years of disinvestment in our unemployment system, lack of state-by-state data sharing and weak identity controls, created a perfect storm for the fraud and identity theft in 2020 that we inherited,” adviser to President Joe Biden, Gene Sperling, told the Post in a statement. The level of fraud is so dominant, that the $163 billion might be on the low end, according to the report. [tweet_embed] May 18, 2022[/tweet_embed] “It’s obviously substantial,” U.S. Secret Service’s Roy Dotson, the national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator, told the Post. “I can’t really get into the number. “We're all trying to figure that out.” Democrats and the Biden Administration are accusing the underfunding of the government in the failure to complete their social programs, calling it a “perfect storm” of fraud capitalizing on the supply of pandemic funds, according to the report. “Those outdated systems are just a magnet for rip-off artists and the fraudsters,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said to the Post. Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz said the government could not keep up with this level of scams. “The ability to engage in identity theft has grown exponentially and the federal government has not kept up,” Horowitz, chief of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, told the Post. TWC has locked claims considered suspicious and tried to make contact with each person associated with the claims flagged as potentially fraudulent, Woellner said. The Department of Labor requires the agency to confirm with a victim or employer whether a suspicious and potentially fraudulent benefits claim is legitimate. The agency has devoted 40 staff and 200 contract workers to processing each flagged claim. Texans who believe their identity has been used to file for unemployment benefits are encouraged by the state to report it through its online form. [tweet_embed] May 18, 2022[/tweet_embed] If a Texan has lost a job recently and is having trouble petitioning for benefits because their name or Social Security number was used to file a dubious claim in recent years, TWC said it is attempting to focus those applicants so they can receive their insurance benefits quickly.