Welfare fraud - who is going to find out? Surely nobody will dob me in!!

Posted on 01 July 2011

A recent report shows that mums and dads claiming parenting payments are the most frequently convicted welfare swindlers and although it is often considered ‘un Australian’ to be a dobber, tip-offs to Centrelink by Australians regarding possible or known welfare fraud has helped claw back millions (over $100 million) in taxpayer funds each year. It appears that Australians are willing to dob!

The types of Centrelink fraud can vary from a university student making up (with the assistance of his/her parents) that they are no longer able to live at home because of a family dispute to receive Youth Allowance, to a couple living together in a de facto relationship and one party claiming the single parent allowance, to the extreme situation where a NSW woman was discovered to have created a fake child to help claim more than $100,000 in benefits.

Centrelink can be made aware of somebody claiming money fraudulently not only via ‘tip-offs’, but also as a result of receiving referrals from various Courts where they become aware through other court proceedings (e.g. family law proceedings) that a person was fraudulently receiving moneys from Centrelink, and through data matching tools (which enables comparisons to be run between income reported to the Australian Taxation Office and welfare benefits made by Centrelink) can catch out welfare cheats.

If caught, people should not be fooled to think that they will just have to pay back the money; Centrelink has increased the rate of prosecuting people caught defrauding the Government and the Courts are increasing their rate of convictions for Centrelink fraud (from single parent to Newstart allowances).

Centrelink fraud is considered to be an act of stealing and stealing taxpayers money is a serious crime. It is an offence to engage in conduct which results in a person obtaining a financial advantage from the Government when that person is aware that they are not entitled to that advantage. If Centrelink refers a matter for prosecution and that person is charged with an offence, they will be prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in the Local Court (most circumstances) however, in some more serious offences they may be transferred to the District Court of NSW.

Many people are surprised to learn that the maximum penalty upon pleading guilty or being found guilty for this offence is imprisonment for 12 months if heard in the Local Court and 5 years if heard in the District Court. 

If you require any information or advice, or have any concerns regarding Centrelink fraud please contact us.