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Chris Bowen

Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law

9 June 2009 - 14 September 2010

Media Release of 02/10/2009

NO.022

Data Matching Leading the Fight Against ID Fraud

Sophisticated technology is helping the Federal Government to fight the battle against those who use false information or stolen identities to defraud Australian taxpayers of Government payments and benefits.

Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen MP, has used National Identity Fraud Awareness Week from 5-11 October to send a clear message that fraud against the Government will not be tolerated.

"Human Services Portfolio agencies, such as Centrelink and Medicare, have specialist teams who use highly developed computer data matching programs to detect identity fraud," Mr Bowen said.

"These agencies work closely with other agencies such as the Child Support Agency and Australian Taxation Office, as well as various state departments, to regularly match information to detect inconsistencies.

"In 2008-09, Centrelink undertook almost 4,000 investigations into identity related fraud which resulted in 166 cases being referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Centrelink also identified debts worth $13 million.

"The message is clear: if you commit fraud against the Commonwealth, the sophisticated data matching detection system will catch up with you."

Recent case studies show how data matching and other analytical techniques identify welfare fraud.

  • A Disability Support Pensioner assumed his dead brother's identity in order to obtain Centrelink benefits he wasn't entitled to. The case was identified through data matching with Medicare – the pensioner was convicted and ordered to repay $179,782.
  • Data matching with the Australian Tax Office detected a Centrelink customer who was working under a false name while collecting Age Pension. This person was found to have been working since 1989 but had not declared any earnings to Centrelink – the customer was hit with an $88,000 debt.

Mr Bowen said identity fraud is a crime and those convicted face hefty fines and long prison sentences.

"Commonwealth Fraud teams work closely with organisations such as the Australian Federal Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring ID fraudsters to justice," Mr Bowen said.

"Identity fraud is a growing trend throughout the world, but the Australian Government will continue to update its techniques to detect those who try and defraud the Australian taxpayer.

"National Identity Fraud Awareness Week is a timely reminder to those who try and obtain Government benefits they're not entitled to – you will be caught."

Members of the public can call the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24 to report suspected cases of fraud against Centrelink, Medicare Australia, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or the Child Support Agency.

2 October 2009


Attachment

Further ID Fraud cases

Victoria

  • A 77-year-old woman from Cribb Point in Victoria was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of six months for welfare fraud. She pleaded guilty to claiming payments under a fictitious identity from 1989 to 2008. The total overpayment amount was $199,836.67.
  • A 73-year-old woman from Melbourne was sentenced to 22 months prison with a non-parole period of 10 months for welfare fraud. She pleaded guilty to claiming payments under a false identity from 1997 to 2006. The total overpayment amount was $94,111.29.
  • A data match identified an Ascot Vale woman who continued to withdraw aged pension payments of her deceased father. She was sentenced to 24 months prison, to serve a minimum term of 12 months. The total overpayment was $83,616.57.

New South Wales

  • A Sydney man was sentenced to 18 months prison, to serve a minimum of 12 months as a result of defrauding Centrelink. A data match program identified the 47-year-old man as being in receipt of two separate payments whilst using an alias to undertake full time employment. The total overpayment was $96,878.66.
  • A 73-year-old woman from Sydney was sentenced to 12 months prison to serve a minimum of three months for welfare fraud. She pleaded guilty to claiming payments under a fictitious identity from 2000 to 2006. The total overpayment amount was $61,972.00.
  • A 48-year-old man from Sydney was sentenced to 18 months prison to serve a minimum of six months for welfare fraud. He pleaded guilty to claiming payments under a fictitious identity. The total overpayment amount was $96,878.00.

Queensland

  • A 56-year-old woman from Queensland was sentenced to 30 months prison to serve a minimum of six months for defrauding Centrelink. The woman claimed payments in two false names. She pleaded guilty to claiming payments under a fictitious identity. The total overpayment amount was $59,953.72.
  • A 56-year-old man from Queensland was sentenced to three years gaol, to serve a minimum of six months for identity fraud matters against Centrelink. The man claimed payments in his own name, as well as that of his brother. The total overpayment was $147,861.11.
  • A Brisbane woman who was receiving Centrelink payments in her married name and working under her maiden name was identified through a Centrelink data match. The 24-year-old woman was sentenced to 150 hours community service and ordered to repay $56,002.84.
  • A Townsville man pleaded guilty to defrauding Centrelink of $78,845.22by receiving payments in his own name and working under a false name. The 42-year-old man was sentenced to a maximum period of three years imprisonment, to serve a minimum of nine months before being released on a good behaviour bond.

Western Australia

  • A 48-year-old man from Western Australia was sentenced to 18 months prison to serve a minimum of six months for welfare fraud. He pleaded guilty to claiming payments under a fictitious identity. The total overpayment amount was $96,878.00.
  • A 58-year-old Western Australian man was sentenced to five months imprisonment for claiming a Centrelink payment in his own name, and working under a false name. The total overpayment was $62,178.30.

Tasmania

  • A Tasmanian man, who claimed Centrelink payments under his brother's name, was given a six month suspended sentence plus a two year Good Behaviour Bond. The Magistrate also directed a reparation order for $13,477.00.
  • The tip-off came from an office referral and alleged that the customer was claiming Centrelink payments using his brother's name. Checks revealed that the customer had used his brother's name at various times when arrested in Victoria. A fingerprint analysis was undertaken which confirmed the two identities were the same person.