The debate over whether more generous unemployment benefits are keeping otherwise able-bodied workers on the sidelines, rather than in the workforce, is an open question.

What appears to be a more settled question, however, is that a huge amount of the unemployment benefits handed out during the depths of the economic shutdown ended up being stolen.

According to Axios, half – or more – of those benefits may have been lost to fraud, with the total loss possibly reaching $400 billion:

Blake Hall, CEO of, a service that tries to prevent this kind of fraud, tells Axios that America has lost more than $400 billion to fraudulent claims. As much as 50% of all unemployment monies might have been stolen, he says.

Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, estimates that at least 70% of the money stolen by impostors ultimately left the country, much of it ending up in the hands of criminal syndicates in China, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere.

“These groups are definitely backed by the state”…

Much of the rest of the money was stolen by street gangs domestically, who have made up a greater share of the fraudsters in recent months.

For a comparison, the entire federal budget in 1977 was $409 billion. Crooks stole almost that much in less time from a single government program in 2020.