What is Welfare Fraud?

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  • Written By: M. Lupica
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 24 December 2019
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Welfare fraud is the receipt of governmental welfare benefits facilitated through an intentional misrepresentation to the particular governmental agency dispensing the benefits. The term “welfare” encompasses a wide variety of benefits available to the needy, including food stamps, subsidized housing, and energy assistance programs. Fraudulently obtaining any of these benefits through misrepresentations designed to make the applicant eligible for benefits or increase his or her benefits entails welfare fraud. Penalties for welfare fraud vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but may include not only repayment of benefits received but also may result in imprisonment.

The financial assistance provided by the government to people deemed in need of such assistance varies depending on the jurisdiction. The term “welfare” is a very general term to encompass all of these benefits. Receiving assistance through such programs is dependent upon meeting certain strict guidelines, so applicants may intentionally misrepresent their situation in order to meet said guidelines. No matter the welfare program or misrepresentation, this act constitutes welfare fraud.


In order to commit welfare fraud, it is not necessary that the applicant actively misrepresent himself or herself on the initial application. For example, many governments provide monthly financial assistance to people whose income is below a certain threshold. There are generally many factors that determine this threshold including amount of income and cost of living in the area in which he or she resides. If a person who was legitimately admitted to this social welfare program obtains another source of income, it is his or her obligation to report this additional source to the governmental organization providing benefits. Simply not reporting this increased earning power is enough to constitute welfare fraud.

Another common example of welfare fraud is the reporting of extra dependents, as the number of children a welfare recipient supports is usually a primary factor in determining the level of financial assistance. Organizations that provide such assistance are generally ill-equipped to monitor recipients’ situations. As a result, welfare fraud is a fairly common crime in countries that offer welfare assistance as the exact number of dependents a recipient has is very difficult to determine.

The penalties for welfare fraud vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but offenders are almost always forced to repay any benefits he or she fraudulently received. Particularly egregious offenders may also face prison time as well as hefty fines. Unfortunately, due to the fact that those who receive these benefits generally do not have any money to begin with, governments’ ability to recoup these losses is very limited.


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Post 1

How easy would it be to get welfare without telling you had EI benefits? How would they find out if you showed them a different bank account? How long would it take welfare to catch you?

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