Government hunting down cheats found through their social media posts
February 3, 2016
WELFARE cheats are being hunted down through their Twitter and Facebook posts, with more than $2 million in fraud having been discovered so far through social media and eBay.
The federal government confirmed that investigators from the Department of Human Services were monitoring social media to catch out people incriminating themselves about false spousal or financial arrangements made to Centrelink.
In one case, according to the department, two people claiming to Centrelink to both be single, so they could receive two single payments rather than a lower couple’s payment, were caught on a Twitter feed announcing that they were a couple and having a baby *together.
The department is also working on an operation with online auction site eBay to track down welfare recipients disposing of assets and not *declaring the income. So far this project has netted $1.7 million in fraud.
Human Services Minister Stuart Robert told The Daily Telegraph that several million dollars had already been identified in operations that used social media monitoring.
He said the government would use all means available to it to recoup the estimated $3 billion in overpaid welfare entitlements, most of which was expected to be identified through electronic data matching between the tax office and social services.
“The government uses a variety of means to catch out welfare cheats, many of whom incriminate themselves on social media,” Mr Robert said.
“My message is simple, if you commit welfare fraud, you will be caught.”
The broader crackdown on welfare fraud, initiated in August last year under Task Force Integrity, has so far resulted in 12 arrests with the help of the Australian Federal Police — five people being charged and 3000 cases of fraud or overpayment due to people hiding assets or failing to declare *income.
Of those 3000, 84 cases have been referred to investigators for suspected criminal activity.
The numbers are made more extraordinary given that the taskforce has only audited two local government areas so far — Rockdale in Sydney and Werribee in Melbourne
— as part of a sweep that will cover the entire country and take several years.
More than $7 million in overpayments has been identified in those two suburbs alone through Taskforce *Integrity.
But this is just one element of a wider effort to recover the $3 billion in overpayments now owed back to the taxpayer by welfare cheats.
And no welfare payment appears to be out of bounds for cheats. There are 42 separate cases of Family Day Care educators being investigated for welfare fraud.
Mr Robert said that every taxpayer dollar recovered from a welfare cheat meant an extra dollar that could go to those who needed genuine help.
“We have an obligation to the Australian people to protect the integrity of welfare payments,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“The majority of welfare recipients do the right thing. However, the reality is there are those who deliberately try to game the system.
“These people need to understand that they are stealing from their neighbours — including those in the community who are genuinely in need.”