Catching welfare fraud and abuse was much harder before (and even during the early stages of) the internet age. There are public assistance fraud investigators who basically work how a normal private investigator works. The most common type of fraud these investigators usually uncover involves a welfare recipient having an unreported job or source of income while receiving benefits.
Some may see that as a violation of privacy, and hiring such investigators costs the taxpayers money too.
In Australia they’ve found an easier way of catching welfare fraud: social media. It’s certainly easier to see if a suspicious recipient is posting about employment online than stationing a private investigator to monitor their movements. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports:
Centrelink investigators are trawling the social media accounts of people on welfare to catch out fraudsters, the federal government has confirmed.
Contractors employed by Centrelink to scan the Facebook pages, Twitter streams and eBay accounts of customers have dredged up more than $2 million in fraud the Daily Telegraph reported.
The operations could nab a fraudster via a guileless ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ Facebook post at the end of a work week from a recipient of unemployment benefits, or perhaps an uninhibited single posting voraciously about their solo life while claiming benefits for dependents they don’t have.
In one case, a couple who claimed they were single to receive single payments were caught out by Centrelink’s social media surveillance investigators when they announced on Twitter that they were in a relationship and expecting a baby, according to the Department of Human Services.
Centrelink contracted investigators have also nabbed $1.7 million in fraud by scanning the eBay online auction accounts of welfare recipients who were selling off assets without declaring the sale price as income.
The work is part of the Department’s Taskforce Integrity operations launched in August 2015 to crackdown on fraud, and recoup the roughly $3 billion in overpayments to welfare recipients
Do you think this is a better way of catching welfare fraud in the internet age, or is this an unjust invasion of privacy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and share this post on Facebook and Twitter.