Today, Michael E. Horowitz, Chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), announced the formation of a new working group focused on preventing and addressing identity fraud in pandemic response programs. The PRAC Identity Fraud Reduction & Redress Working Group is a joint effort of multiple Inspectors General who are members of the PRAC:
- Chair: Susan Gibson, Inspector General, National Reconnaissance Office
- Hannibal “Mike” Ware, Inspector General, Small Business Administration
- J. Russell George, Inspector General, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
- Michael Missal, Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Christi Grimm, Acting Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services
- Larry Turner, Acting Inspector General, Department of Labor
“Citizens are often twice victimized in pandemic identity theft schemes: once when their personal information is stolen, and again when the federal benefits intended to provide relief from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic are diverted to the pockets of bad actors. The PRAC and our member Inspectors General are working to protect the public from identity fraud in pandemic relief programs by closing the gaps that allow scammers to exploit federal benefit programs, holding wrongdoers accountable, and helping victims of identity fraud set things right,” said Mr. Horowitz.
Identity theft is a significant threat that cuts across agency and program boundaries. Three pandemic-related benefit programs have been particularly hard hit: the Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance program and the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and Paycheck Protection Program.
According to a Federal Trade Commission report, identity thieves targeted pandemic unemployment insurance in record numbers. More than 394,000 people reported that their personal information was misused to apply for a government benefit—an increase of nearly 3,000% from 2019.
“As an oversight community, we have identified internal controls that can prevent identity fraud in federal programs to avoid the scale of fraud that took place in 2020,” said Ms. Gibson. “The PRAC Identity Fraud Reduction & Redress Working Group is working to create a holistic approach to help reduce identity fraud in government programs and assist victims in recovering from what can be devastating impacts from identity fraud.”
To learn more about how watchdogs at all levels of government—federal, state, and local—are sounding the alarm on identity thieves who exploit pandemic relief programs, please check out the PRAC’s new interactive timeline. Our timeline takes you through the oversight community’s audit and investigative efforts to protect pandemic relief funds.
The PRAC was established by the CARES Act to promote transparency and support independent oversight of the funds provided by the CARES Act and other related emergency spending bills. In addition to its coordination and oversight responsibilities, the PRAC is tasked with supporting efforts to “prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement [and] mitigate major risks that cut across program and agency boundaries.”
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