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Australian Government’s welfare data matching tracking down welfare fraudsters in prison

The Australia’s Government’s sophisticated welfare data matching has focused on prisoners in recent years and identified millions of dollars in welfare fraud or overpayments, including where people are deliberately ripping off the system using aliases.

People in prison are not eligible for welfare payments. Income support recipients are required to notify Centrelink of any change in circumstance, including going to prison.

However, knowing that many prisoners fail to inform Centrelink, the Government is data matching with state and territory corrective services. This identifies those in prison and cross checks them with Centrelink records.

Last financial year, 4,900 instances of fraud or overpayments were identified in this way, with 87% identified within two weeks of the overpayment occurring.

In total, AU$3.2 million was raised in debts to the taxpayer last year. Since the Coalition came to the Government, debts of AU$16.5 million have been raised from almost 21,000 prisoners who should not have been receiving payments.

However, some people go to extraordinary effort to avoid being caught by authorities. By definition, the Government is dealing with a criminal element who excel at trying to get around the law. Therefore, the Government is constantly upgrading its sophistication of data matching.

In the last 12 months, the Government has put significantly more effort into improving aliases data matching. This is when people deliberately use false names or dates of birth to avoid being cross referenced with correctional authorities.

The Government is now catching these crooks, and its methods are getting more sophisticated all the time. One person that was uncovered took over AU$80,000 of welfare they were not entitled to.

Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said that right across the board, the Government is tightening the welfare system to catch those who are ripping off the taxpayer. 

“Unsurprisingly, many people in prison go to extraordinary lengths to get payments they are not entitled to, including creating false identities,” said Minister Tudge.

 “However, due to the increasing sophistication of our data-matching capabilities, we are catching these crooks.

 In almost 90% of the time, we identify people within two weeks and recoup the money. With others, it sometimes takes longer, but eventually we track them down.

 We are very lucky to have a strong social security safety net, but those who deliberately rip off the system won’t get away with it.”

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