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Big Gulp

Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) is an independent oversight committee within the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. PRAC was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 to ensure that the $2.2 trillion (who doesn’t gulp when they hear that amount?) of the CARES act, plus 5 other pandemic-related pieces of legislation totaling over $5 trillion (big gulp!) in government funds, were not misspent. Unfortunately, fraudsters are tricky.

Pandemic Response Accountability Committee Chairman Michael Horowitz testified this February of 2023 before the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. He explained that PRAC was able to determine that 175,000 questionable Social Security numbers had been used in applications that were not approved. That means that loans were denied to these applicants. However, 69,000 applications using questionable Social Security numbers were approved for $5.4 billion in pandemic loans. What exactly is questionable? Life or death is what makes it questionable.

As a follow up these results, the PRAC said it took a closer look at those Social Security Numbers and found that a large number of them belonged to people who had died. Being alive is apparently not one of the criteria for receiving a COVID-19 loan. PRAC determined that about 305 Social Security numbers of deceased people are connected to fraudulent COVID loans totaling nearly $38 million in improper payments.

Horowitz claims that federal agencies failed to use some of the tools at their disposal to prevent fraud, including the Do Not Pay list. The U.S. Department of the Treasury had set up the list of suspicious payees who should trigger additional screening. So, if what Horowitz says is true, does it matter what tools we give if they aren’t going to be used to protect the U.S. taxpayer?

Today’s Fraud Of The Day is based on article “Fraud report: $38 million in pandemic relief aid sent to dead people” published by The Washington Examiner on May 18, 2023

Data scientists from the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee identified nearly $38 million in potentially improper or fraudulent pandemic loans were obtained using Social Security Numbers of dead people.

The loans were made through both the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and Paycheck Protection Program.

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