Sneaky Centrelink cheat Aussies do to make money
MORE than 70 people a day are getting caught ripping off Australia's welfare system by falsely claiming to be single in order to receive higher payments.
The Commonwealth has clawed back $61 million from more than 26,300 people ripping off Centrelink in the past year.
While some cases involved genuine mistakes or oversights, many were deliberate acts of fraud that were detected by members of the Department of Human Services' specialist fraud and compliance teams.
People failing to declare that they were in a relationship was one of the main ways that welfare recipients end up with debts, along with failing to properly declare their income.
Human Services and Digital Transformation Minister Michael Keenan said the figures should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of defrauding the system that the risks of getting caught were very high.
"Stealing from the welfare system is not a victimless crime," Mr Keenan said.
"You are stealing directly from pockets of Australian taxpayers and robbing the wider community of much needed funds that could be spent on other essential services such as roads, schools and hospitals.
"You also need to know that if we catch you, you will be made to pay the money back and you could also end up with a criminal record, or worse, in jail."
In 2017/18 the average debt owed by Australians in relationships who had been caught out claiming to be single was $2343, up from $1986 the year before.
A 76-year-old Victorian woman was last month sentenced to almost three years behind bars after being convicted of fraudulently claiming $287,000 in benefits, claiming to be single while in a relationship with a man who was worth millions.
"Australia has a strong welfare system that ensures those who genuinely need our help can get a fair go," Mr Keenan said.
"But those who fund the system - taxpayers - also have a right to a fair go, which is why we will continue to take strong action against those who are doing the wrong thing."
It comes as the federal government has tried to streamline Centrelink processes - but Aussies have complained of huge delays to their applications.
Retiree Carole Austin, 73, told Channel 9 she applied for the age pension more than a year ago, but is still yet to hear whether she'll receive it.
She is down to her last $17,000 and said Centrelink staff told her that her application will not be a priority until she is down to her last $2000.
"I'm just totally disappointed in the whole thing," she said.