Criminals are seizing on a surge in job losses to steal unemployment benefits from Americans nationwide.

The uptick in crime complicates an already tough situation for millions of financially strapped Americans and overwhelmed state unemployment offices.

A U.S. Labor Department official testified this week that at least $26 billion will have been wasted, going largely to fraudsters instead of those in need.

Security experts say the bulk of the fraud appears to be committed by criminals using stolen data to make claims using someone else’s identity.

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