DCF cracking down on welfare fraud - FOX 35 News Orlando

DCF cracking down on welfare fraud

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The Florida Department of Children and Families is introducing a new way to combat fraud in welfare benefits, and it involves asking simple questions of applicants when they go for benefits on line.

Suzanne Vitale with the DCF says everyone should care, because everyone in the state has been a victim of fraud.

"Many of you out there are victims of fraud yourself," she said. "Why? Because it's taxpayers dollars."

The agency is spending a million dollars with Lexis Nexis. The company asks simple questions, like you would find in the private sector, to make sure people are who they say they are. An example would be, "What is your mother's maiden name?" 

Vitale says identity theft is not rampant but is a problem for social benefits.

"When your public assistance benefits are stolen from them, unfortunately for that month, they then go without food on the table. They go without perhaps being able to deal with their utilities, their rent, their necessary benefits."

The agency believes it will save $66 million a year by halting these types of fraud.

Eric Ashby is with the Florida Department of Finance, and he tells FOX 35 investigations into fraud after benefits are handed out will also continue. He says the most common problem he sees once benefits are received is people not owning up when their situation changes.

"People simply not reporting their incomes, and since the growth of the programs, the cases I've seen are people who are making a good living wage who are applying for benefits simply to ingratiate themselves on the taxpayers by paying for their Medicaid benefits and supplementing their income."

Vitale says DCF is the first government agency in the state to use this type of verification, even though these questions have been commonplace in the private sector for years.

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