Social Security & Centrelink Offences

The Social Security System payment in Australia is one of the most extensive social welfare payments around the globe. Instead of direct contributions, Australia’s general revenue produces the money for social security payments to millions of beneficiaries in the country.

The Social Security system is established to give Australians assistance with their financial struggles, especially the people who live from paycheck-to-paycheck. Centrelink is a branch of the Department of Human Services, which is tasked with administering the social security payments and benefits to the people. It is unfortunate for this sophisticated payment system to be a platform for fraud and dishonesty. Welfare cheats refer to the people who commit social security fraud and are responsible for stealing over $600 million of payments annually. This affects millions of people who are truly in need, which is why these types of offences must not be taken for granted.

Social Security or Centrelink Offences

According to Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, Social Security or Centrelink Offences extend to omissions, acts, matters, and things outside Australia, whether one is in a foreign country or not. These laws apply to everyone — irrespective of their nationality — who has made or received social security payments under the social security law.

It is a major offence to obtain social security payments or benefits through fraud. Social Security or Centrelink crimes occur when fraudulent services or impersonation is used to obtain social security benefits.

Most of the people who violate social security laws are well aware of what they are doing and are doing it mainly for personal gain. However, some perpetrators also use other people’s identities when committing the crime.

Social security fraud and related crimes

Social Security or Centrelink Crimes mainly revolve around the criminal act of fraud and its many forms. Fraud is the main offence when it comes to social security crimes, but there are also other offences, which are considered illegal by the Australian government. In particular, there are five offences listed under the Social Security Act of 1999. These are the following:

  • False statement in connection with a claim or hardship request
  • False statement to deceive or affect rates
  • False statement or document (given to Social Security officers or Centrelink representatives)
  • Obtaining payment that is not payable
  • Fraud

The most common Centrelink crimes involve receiving and claiming Centrelink payments with some form of deceit, that is, they receive benefits that are calculated on a false premise. For example, someone may claim they are not employed when in fact they are under paid employment or that they are single when the fact is that they’re in a relationship.

Other forms of Social Security fraud include the failure to report a change in circumstances, reporting incorrect earnings, and failure to report one’s income.
The following are the main offences under social security fraud:

  • Obtaining a financial advantage (Penalised with a maxim of 12 months’ imprisonment)
  • General dishonesty, which causes a loss (Penalised with a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment)
  • Using deception to obtain a financial advantage (Penalised with a maximum 10 years’ imprisonment)
  • Using deception to obtain property

Welfare Fraud

Given that Centrelink is under the supervision of the Department of Human Services, Welfare Fraud is one of the program’s top priorities.

However, it is also essential to keep in mind that there are some cases where people unintentionally committed the said crimes. There are some who are unaware they are claiming payments and benefits they are not entitled to. These instances may result in severe anxiety or stress for the people being charged with crimes they are unaware of committing.

For this reason, it is important for you to familiarise yourself with the Social Security Law, as the knowledge may come in handy in the event that you become falsely accused. People who are faced with this dilemma should immediately seek legal help to clear their name and to convict their accuser.

The penalties

The penalties for Social Security or Centrelink crimes differ from each other, based on the level or number of the crimes committed. Those who commit the crime may be penalised with the following:

  • Fine ranging from $10,200 for minor offences to $102,000 for major offences
  • Prison time ranging from 12 months or more for minor offences to 10 years for major offences
  • Repayment of the debt falsely claimed or received
  • The payment system’s cessation of monthly payments to people who violate or abuse the system

Social security and centrelink offences investigation

Australia’s methods of detecting and preventing fraud are increasingly becoming more sophisticated. There are different fraud reporting mechanisms, internal audits, compliance reviews, employment screenings, and more.

The government and legal organisations also rely on different practices and methodologies. These include the Integrated Review System or IRS, evidence handling, informants, interviews, investigation management, and surveillance. Coercion and the execution of search warrants are also alternatives when tracing down perpetrators or false accusers.

Prosecutions for social security fraud can be very demanding and complex and requires technical evidence of the Department of Human Services’ benefits systems.
Being convicted for Social Security fraud can affect your personal life and financial situation in the long term.

The law about Social Security and Centrelink Offences is clear on what it wants to stop. But keeping up with the number of offences makes it hard for these entities to keep up. The advancement of technology also makes it easier for fraudsters to steal identities to take payments that are not theirs.

The government and its many departments are not the only entities that can help you deal with these types of crimes. There are many organisations, companies, and groups in Australia that provide legal services to help beneficiaries receive the social welfare payment they deserve and to prevent social security or Centrelink crimes.

If you need legal advice or have any questions regarding social security and centrelink offences, contact our team at FC Lawyers.