5 Common Types of Welfare Fraud

5 Common Types of Welfare Fraud

Welfare fraud is a serious crime. It’s a form of theft that can keep people from getting the help they need when they truly need it.

It also involves a great deal of bureaucracy, which means if you fail to understand the requirements of your program you may end up committing fraud by accident.

And while multi-million dollar schemes exist, sometimes welfare fraud is a lot more basic. It’s committed by someone who is struggling, who may otherwise be a good person, who faces temptation because it’s still hard to survive while receiving public assistance.

  1. Underreporting Income

This is one of the most common forms of fraud. The recipient does not report a new job, a sudden windfall like a lottery win or inheritance, or even outright lies about income on a welfare application.

Remember, when you are receiving public assistance, you must inform your case worker about any changes in your financial situation.

See also: Common Examples of Health Care Fraud.

  1. Overreporting Dependents

Income isn’t the only determinant of welfare benefits. Household size makes a big difference too.

So it’s not surprising that inflating the number of dependents on applications is a common form of welfare fraud.

This can also happen when a child graduates and moves out, and a recipient either consciously forgets to tell their case worker, or forgets they have to.

See also: Falsely Accused? Know Your Options.

  1. Exchanging food stamp benefits for cash.

There is a healthy black market economy of food stamp recipients who sell their EBT cards to people who need or want the extra food dollars in favor of cash they can use for other things.

Some store owners agree to do this for customers in exchange for a cut.

This type of fraud can even prompt the FBI to get involved. In one case, a store owner allowed customers to exchange benefits for cash if they bought groceries valued at 10% of the amount they wanted. So if a customer bought $20 of groceries, the customer could get $200 in cash, while allowing the store owner to charge $350 to the benefit card so he could pocket $150 for himself.

This one, of course, is impossible to do accidentally, but many people do it thinking there’s no real harm in it. Sadly, there is harm: people who were meant to buy food end up buying contraband instead.

See also: Should You Accept? The Advantages and Disadvantages of Plea Bargaining.

  1. Creating false identities to collect benefits.

This type of fraud takes several different forms. Sometimes the recipient lives with someone who dies. They never report the death and they continue to accept the benefits.

Other schemes are more elaborate, involving stolen social security numbers and fabricated identities to collect multiple benefit checks.

See also: Criminal Law: What You See on TV vs. Reality.

  1. Receiving benefits from a state you don’t live in.

When welfare checks don’t seem to stretch far enough, it can be tempting to try to collect benefits from two different states. Perhaps you have a relative in New Jersey, but you yourself live in New York. If you apply for benefits in both states, using your relative’s address as your own address, you have just committed fraud.

And while it can take one or both states a little time to catch on, they usually do in the end.

If you’ve been accused of welfare fraud, you need help.

Depending on how you committed the fraud and the amount involved,  you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. You can also get hit by sanctions that could keep you from ever receiving welfare benefits again. And the courts don’t really care whether you were ignorant, desperate, or simply trying to make an easy buck.

By contacting the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman, you can get an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side, someone who has defended many welfare fraud cases in the past. If you’ve been charged with welfare fraud, or think you may be, schedule a consultation today.