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Nigerian-based scammers “clean” New York coffers amidst Covid-19 pandemic

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As jobless figures skyrocket during the coronavirus pandemic, officials in Washington State may have lost “hundreds of millions of dollars” to fraudsters filing bogus unemployment claims – all the way from Nigeria.

Washington’s monthly unemployment report, released on Wednesday, made for grim reading. The Evergreen State’s unemployment rate has tripled since March, with nearly a third of the labor force applying for welfare – the highest in the nation.

Now, officials in Olympia have admitted that many of these claims were fraudulent, and that state coffers have been cleaned out by scammers based in Nigeria.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzan LeVine didn’t admit exactly how much money the crafty Nigerians had gotten away with, only that it was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million her department lost to fraud last month.

LeVine’s admission came a week after the Secret Service circulated a memo warning of a “well-organized Nigerian fraud ring exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to commit large-scale fraud against state unemployment insurance programs.” Washington was named as the “primary state targeted,” while the report also warned of “attacks in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Florida.” Potential losses, the Secret Service claimed, could amount to “hundreds of millions.”

Nearly everyone with an email address has gotten the infamous ‘Nigerian prince’ email at some point. Designed to fool only the most gullible, the ‘prince’ claims to have inherited a vast fortune, but for reasons unknown he can’t access it without paying a small fee to a Swiss bank, or something equally implausible. The unfortunate mark sends the prince this fee, and never sees their share of the fortune.

The criminals who targeted Washington were a little more sophisticated. According to the Secret Service memo, the scammers had access to lists of social security numbers and other personal information, gleaned through identity theft. Armed with this information, they set about filing claims online, using in-state “mules” to receive the cash and forward it on to Nigeria.

Washington was likely targeted due to its relatively generous welfare system, and due to the fact that it paid out claims filed since March in lump sums in recent weeks. Furthermore, the sheer volume of claims submitted during the coronavirus crisis meant that the ESD was not examining them as thoroughly as usual.

One claim, filed in Washington and sent to a “mule” in Oklahoma, amounted to $29,000, cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs reported. To the scammer sitting behind a computer screen in Lagos or Abuja, $29,000 is a bonanza. A Nigerian working full-time can only hope to earn around $550 per year.

Admitting you’ve been conned is a hard thing to do, even by a sophisticated criminal network. Nevertheless, LeVine attempted to spin the news positively on Thursday, boasting that her department has strengthened its security in recent days.

“We do have definitive proof that the countermeasures we have put in place are working,” she said. “We have successfully prevented hundreds of millions of additional dollars from going out to these criminals and prevented thousands of fraudulent claims from being filed.”

 

RT

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Kagame’s son appointed to board of Rwanda’s investment agency

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A son of President Paul Kagame has been appointed to the board of the Rwanda Development Board, RDB. 30-year-old Ivan Kagame is the eldest son of his parents. The Kagames have four children – three sons and a daughter.

The RDB is government machinery tasked with fast tracking the country’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. The US-educated Ivan joins as one of four new members announced by the Prime Minister’s office earlier this week.

In welcoming the new members, the board wrote about the young Kagame “Ivan Kagame is a partner at a Venture Capital fund, and co-founder of a leading energy company.

“Ivan brings a diverse skill set and vast experience in investment advisory services, entrepreneurship and investments management both in Africa and the USA. He holds a Bsc in Economics from Pace university and an MBA from the Marshall School at the University of Southern California.”

The other new members were: Solange Uwituze, Eric Kacou and Liban Soleman Abdi. They join a board currently headed by Itzhak Fisher with vice chair Evelyn Kamagaju, a former Auditor General of Rwanda. Diane Karususi, Faith Keza and Alice Nkulikiyinka complete the list of serving members.

RDB is behind high-profile sponsorship deals with English Premier League side Arsenal and French side Paris Saint-Germain – both deals under the “Visit Rwanda” label is to promote tourism in the East African nation.

RDB’s website describes its mission: “To transform Rwanda into a dynamic global hub for business, investment, and innovation.”

It pools all the government agencies responsible for the entire investor experience under one roof. It reports directly to the president and is guided by a board that includes all relevant sector ministers.

It is modeled on international best practice examples of Singapore and Costa Rica. It has advisory and hands-on support from global entrepreneurs and experts from Singapore Development Board, World Bank, IFC and the Office of Tony Blair.

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Trump designates houses of worship as essential, orders US governors to reopen them NOW

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US President Donald Trump has declared that churches, synagogues and mosques are ‘essential’ establishments. He ordered governors to allow them to reopen immediately, and threatened to override them if they refuse.

“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united,”  Trump announced at the White House on Friday, adding that it’s “not right”  that some states have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but mandated that houses of worship remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Any governor that has a problem with this can call the president, but will not find understanding, Trump added. If the governors refuse to allow the houses of worship to reopen immediately, this very weekend, “I will override the governors,” he said.

In America, we need more prayer, not less.

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ECOWAS disowns Madagascar COVID-19 “cure donation

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The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has dissociated itself from reports of a donation from Madagascar regarding a coronavirus herbal cure, COVID-Organics.

In a May 6 press release, the ECOWAS Commission said it dissociates itself from claims that it had “ordered a package of COVID Organics (CVO) medicine from a third country.”

“We wish to dissociate ECOWAS and its health institution, West Africa Health Organization, WAHO, from this claim and inform the general public that we have not ordered the said CVO medicine,” the statement read in part.

The controversial Malagasy virus cure is already in West Africa after Guinea-Bissau took delivery of a donation days ago. The Malagasy president Andry Rajoelina told national broadcaster that a donation had been made to 15-member ECOWAS bloc.

At the handing over ceremony to Guinea-Bissau officials, the packaging of the drugs had flags of all African countries in the bloc. Bissau had agreed to deploy to neighbouring countries, Rajoelina added.

The current statement is a direct response to Rajoelina’s claims. It stressed that ECOWAS was not against traditional or herbal contributions to health challenges but that it was only ready to support and endorse products that had been scientifically tested and proven.

It added that WAHO remained in contact with WHO, Africa CDC and other international stakeholders in seeking a scientific search for COVID-19 cure. The WHO has warned against untested cures whiles the Africa CDC said it was in talks with Antananarivo.

It is not known as yet if Guinea-Bissau has started deployment and whether other African countries will accept the packages. The last ECOWAS heads of state meeting did not discuss anything around the issue.

TFYNEWS.

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