Report: $45.6 billion in pandemic unemployment aid may have been stolen by scammers.

A federal watchdog on Thursday found that fraudsters may have stolen $45.6 billion from the nation’s unemployment insurance program during the pandemic, using the Social Security numbers of dead people and other tactics to deceive and bilk the U.S. government.

An estimated $45.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits was likely stolen by fraudsters who used the Social Security numbers of dead people and prisoners to claim the aid, a government watchdog said Wednesday in a report.

The report, issued by the Labor Department’s inspector general, said the loss total was revised upward from a June 2021 assessment that about $16 billion had been stolen by fraudulent claims. 

“Hundreds of billions in pandemic funds attracted fraudsters seeking to exploit the [unemployment insurance] program, resulting in historic levels of fraud and other improper payments,” Labor Department Inspector General Larry Turner said in a statement

First rolled out under President Donald Trump, emergency jobless aid was aimed at helping the millions of Americans who lost their jobs in the government shutdowns in the early days of the pandemic. The government relief, which provided an extra $600 a week in added benefits, was far more generous than typical unemployment programs, which usually replace only a fraction of a worker’s lost income.