The Secret Service has reportedly recovered $286 million in COVID-19 relief funds that had been obtained illegally by people using fake identities.
According to a Friday (Aug. 26) Wall Street Journal report, the money seized was taken from conspirators using fake or stolen credentials to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which was part of a relief program to help small businesses during the pandemic.
Roughly 15,000 fake accounts at Texas-based Green Dot Bank were used to withdraw the loans with debit cards. The fraud was first spotted in central Florida, where conspirators had been using Green Dot Bank’s third-party system to move the loan money around.
In the report, Green Dot Bank said it had invested in account protection and fraud prevention and was cooperating with state and federal agencies.
The funds have now been returned to the Small Business Administration, which runs the EIDL program. There has been a glut of fraud associated with pandemic programs, and since 2020, the Secret Service has seized more than $1.4 billion in fraudulently-obtained funds, returning around $2.3 billion to state unemployment insurance programs.
Last December, the Secret Service said the overall amount of fraudulently-obtained COVID relief funds might hit $100 billion.
In related news, PYMNTS wrote that Cross River Bank is facing some questions over its handling of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
See also: Cross River Bank’s PPP Lending Practices Raise Questions
Cross River had been helping many businesses get the loans at the beginning of the pandemic, but the concerns stem from borrowers not applying for forgiveness — meaning that there might be some borrowers abusing the program.
The borrowers didn’t follow through on paperwork to cancel the debt, and the PPP only allows for forgiveness if it can be proven that the loan was used to cover eligible costs. While it’s not certain that this means fraud has occurred, Cross River had 16.4% unforgiven PPP loans from 2020, far more than the 5% the general program saw that year.
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