Two Indonesian hackers arrested over scam that stole $80 million from US Covid-19 aid programme

SURABAYA (AFP) – Two Indonesian hackers have been arrested over an international scam in which US$60 million (S$80 million) was stolen from a Covid-19 aid programme helping Americans left jobless by the pandemic, the authorities said.

Text messages were sent to 20 million Americans directing them to more than a dozen fake United States government websites, the Indonesian police said late on Thursday (April 15).

Thousands of victims supplied personal information, including social security numbers, to the fake sites in the hopes of securing US$2,000 offered under a real assistance programme for the unemployed.

But their data was instead used by scammers to steal millions of dollars from the programme.

“Some 30,000 US citizens were scammed and the government’s financial loss is up to US$60 million,” said East Java police chief Nico Afinta.

The two suspects were arrested last month in Indonesia’s Surabaya city after the police were notified by the US authorities.

The Indonesian police did not say how long the scam had been running.

The pair could face up to nine years in prison under Indonesia’s electronic information law.

The police said that they were investigating the possible involvement of a third person who may have secured funds illicitly.

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