F5 exposes top trends in unemployment fraud

JOHANNESBURG – April 16, 2021 – The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has placed increased pressure on many governments around the world to provide unemployment benefits for citizens. However, a lack of anti-fraud infrastructure within government agencies has helped to create a rise in fraud.

It’s been recently reported that two Indonesian hackers were arrested over an international scam in which $60 million was stolen from a COVID-19 aid programme helping Americans left jobless by the pandemic[1].

Text messages were sent to 20 million Americans directing them to more than a dozen fake US government websites. Thousands of victims supplied personal information, including social security numbers, to the fake sites in the hopes of securing $2,000 offered under a real assistance programme for the unemployed.

But their data was instead used by scammers to steal millions of dollars from the programme. It’s reported that around 30,000 US citizens were scammed and the government's financial loss is up to $60 million[2].

F5, which delivers cloud and security solutions, has learned a number of things about unemployment fraud in its efforts to help monitor and control such activities. Here are some of the top trends that F5 has seen from unemployment fraudsters. The information is from global sources but has local bearing here in South Africa.

Writing in a recent blog entry, Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5, explains, “The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic turmoil continue to pose enormous challenges. Unfortunately, fraudsters have been quick to capitalise on the pandemic and take advantage of unemployment benefits intended for individuals and families who desperately need them during these turbulent times.”

According to Goldfarb, the top trends of unemployment fraud include the following:

It’s easier for criminals to carry out unemployment fraud crimes right now: This is partly because of the volume of legitimate claims that are being made for unemployment benefits by people in real need. F5 advises that government agencies should use appropriate technology to detect and prevent fraud in real-time, without slowing or putting payments of unemployment benefits to legitimate recipients on hold.

Identity theft is a big issue: The easiest and most predominant means by which unemployment fraud is committed begins with fraudsters stealing identities. Once they have amassed a list of stolen identities, they can begin the process of attempting to open new accounts and file unemployment claims with government agencies.

Vacant properties provide addresses: Fraud criminals need to supply a physical address during the unemployment claim application process. To use the real addresses of the people whose identities have been stolen would be risky. Instead, criminals use addresses of vacant properties, often submitting hundreds of applications with the same physical address.

Hiding in plain sight to avoid detection: Fraud criminals employ a variety of techniques to accomplish this. Many of them use VPNs and cloud infrastructure to try and disguise their identities. They also often rotate their IP addresses and user agents. F5 has been able to work this out because the time zones on the criminals’ devices often don’t match the geolocation of their IP address.

“By educating ourselves on how fraudsters commit unemployment fraud and implementing technology solutions to detect and prevent it, we can reduce fraud losses for state governments and ensure that those state governments accurately and successfully direct those funds to their intended recipients,” concludes Goldfarb.

Networks Unlimited Africa is an F5 channel partner in sub-Saharan Africa. F5 makes apps operate faster, better and more safely for the world’s largest businesses, service providers, governments and consumer brands.

About F5

F5 brings adaptive applications to life. F5’s automation, security, performance, and insight solutions empower organisations to develop, deliver, secure, and optimise adaptive applications that increase revenue, reduce costs, and better protect users. F5 delivers cloud and security solutions that enable organisations to embrace the application infrastructure they choose without sacrificing speed and control. For more information, go to f5.com.

About Networks Unlimited Africa

Networks Unlimited is a value-added distributor, committed to empowering African businesses through innovative technology solutions. Our focus includes the world's leading security, networking, storage, enterprise system management (ESM) and cloud technologies. As a company, we are dedicated to taking our partner ecosystem to new heights. We support our partners through operational excellence, a competitive pricing strategy and strong focus on education, with the view of investing in long-term relationships. We work with competitive, resilient businesses, who are leaders in their field of excellence.

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[1] https://ewn.co.za/2021/04/16/indonesian-hackers-arrested-over-usd60-million-us-covid-19-scam

[2] https://ewn.co.za/2021/04/16/indonesian-hackers-arrested-over-usd60-million-us-covid-19-scam

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