Indonesia arrests two hackers over $60-million fraud that targeted US jobless during Covid pandemic

Indonesia has charged two hackers over a $60-million scam targeting Americans who lost their jobs during the Covid pandemic, directing people to fake websites, stealing data then using it to defraud millions from an aid program.

The fraudsters used scam text messages, sent to 20 million individuals, to push Americans to fake government websites where they were convinced to submit their information, including social security numbers, allowing the hackers to steal personal data. 

Authorities believe that thousands of American citizens provided their details on the fraudulent sites, thinking that they were applying for the $2,000 provided by the US government under its Covid aid program. 

Instead of receiving financial support, the individuals had their data used by scammers to steal millions of dollars from the Covid relief program. The East Java police chief, Nico Afinta, estimates that 30,000 Americans were caught in the scheme at a cost of $60 million to the US government.

The individuals were detained last month after US authorities contacted police in the Indonesian city of Surabaya but officials only announced the arrests late on Thursday, as they paraded the accused hackers in front of media.

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Indonesia is planning to put the pair on trial in the country, rather than extraditing them to America, meaning the hackers could face nine years in prison if convicted under electronic information law.

While police did not provide much detail on further suspects or criminals involved in the scam, they indicated that an investigation was underway over a possible third person who might have received illegally obtained funds.

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