Since the start of the pandemic, New York has paid out more than $65 billion in unemployment claims to 4 million people seeking aid. 

But at the same time, officials have found 425,000 fraudulent claims, blocking more than $5.5 billion from being stolen, state Department of Labor officials on Tuesday said. 

“Unemployment fraud is – sadly – a scourge that we have to fight every day, but it is particularly despicable that criminals would use a global pandemic as cover to attempt to defraud our system. These benefits have been a lifeline for millions of New Yorkers over the last year, and every day our Office of Special Investigations is working to protect our system from fraud and abuse,” Labor Commissioner Robert Reardon said. 

“Our team is using technology, including artificial intelligence and other sophisticated techniques, to identify fraud as quickly as possible and stop these criminals in their tracks. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at all levels to bring these thieves to justice.”

The total benefits paid out in the last 10 months previously represnted 30 years of benefits. But the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders led to a surge in an unemployment. The federal government added pandemic aid to those who lost their jobs because of the crisis.