Welfare cheats caught via social media

Department of Human Services’ (DHS) investigators are monitoring the online activities of welfare recipients, scanning their social media accounts in an effort to trap welfare cheats.

And the efforts are paying off, as contractors employed by the Department to trawl though recipients’ Facebook and Twitter accounts have so far recouped $2 million in welfare fraud. Investigators have also recovered a further $1.7 million by targeting eBay sellers who have not declared their online earnings.

A person receiving unemployment benefits who posts a simple ‘drinks after work with friends’ message on Facebook, or a couple claiming individual benefits who proudly proclaim an anniversary on Twitter could now face major repercussions if caught.

Launched in August 2015, DHS’s ‘Taskforce Integrity’ has simple a simple goal: crackdown on welfare fraud and recoup around $3 billion in overpayments made to welfare cheats.

“While most people receiving welfare payments are honest and do the right thing, there is a small segment of the community who still think it is okay to cheat the system,” said Minister for Human Services Stuart Robert. “Taskforce Integrity will continue to collaborate with its partner agencies to meet the challenges posed by welfare fraud and ensure those individuals who deliberately defraud the system are caught.”

This type of reconnaissance, called “optical surveillance”, focuses on anyone who is suspicious of fraudulent activity. However, at this stage, investigators are restricted to scanning only the social media profiles that are publicly available, with no judicial warrant required.

So far, taskforce operations have lead to 3072 compliance reviews, 1888 cases of overpayment and five arrests for those failing to attend court for welfare fraud offences.

Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald

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