Centrelink crackdown as taskforce tackles "welfare fraud"

THE Federal Government is cracking down on welfare fraud, and you may be on their radar.

A special taskforce has been set up to eliminate cases where welfare recipients are not declaring or deliberately lying about their circumstances.

Across the country the team has found 135 cases of potential fraud.

Federal Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, said Taskforce Integrity was targeting several known "hot spots" across the country.

In one "hot spot" alone, Mr Tudge said three cases have already been referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions."

"The taskforce is also examining data-matching that identifies cases where people report a different relationship details to different Government agencies.

"For example, someone may claim partnered relationship status to obtain a larger public housing residence, but claim single status for a higher rate of welfare payment."

Anyone hoping to slip under the radar might find themselves in trouble.

Although it's an oversight in some cases, overpayments received through Centrelink can have serious legal ramifications for anyone caught out.

It is not unusual for people charged with Centrelink fraud to be sent to jail.

"Across all areas so far, the taskforce has identified $19.6 million in debt owed to the Commonwealth and 135 cases of potential welfare fraud which are being investigated," Mr Tudge said.

"Most people are honest and do the right thing. However, there is a small segment of the community who try to defraud the welfare system and actively seek to avoid detection.

"It's important people understand that deliberately withholding information or providing false information may amount to fraud, which can have serious consequences."



If found guilty of Centrelink fraud, you may face the following penalties:

  • Repayment of the debt

  • A fine, in the sum of up to $10,200 for a minor offence, and up to $102,000 for a major offence.

  • Imprisonment, for a term of up to 12 months for a minor offence and up to 10 years for a major offence.

  • More than half of those prosecuted (57%) in 2011-2012 for "obtaining a financial advantage from the Australian Governmeny by deception" were sentenced to "immediate imprisonment"

  • From 2007 to 2012, the average fine was $5373 (ranging from $100 to $30,000).

  • Courts take a "tough stance" on welfare fraud.

Source: Slater & Gordon

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