Home Is Where the Fraud Is

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We’ve all heard the expression: ”home is where the heart is.” For most of us, this sentiment rings true. A home provides a sense of security and shelter. But, times are tough, and not everyone is able

to afford housing to meet these needs. That’s where public housing programs come in. Public housing programs provide subsidized rental assistance through Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. Like all public assistance programs, the applicant must meet certain eligibility criteria and disclose additional assistance they are receiving through other benefits programs. Unfortunately, some cheat the system and lie by failing to disclose additional benefits. And, that’s the case in today’s Fraud of the Day from turnto10.com.

The article describes the results of a Rhode Island human services report on food stamp fraud and waste, which found that residents of a local housing authority were ”gaming the system.” (I can’t imagine anyone in Rhode Island running a scam.) So, what exactly were they doing? ”The report found, among other things, that more than one-third of…housing residents that get Section 8 housing assistance are either under-reporting or not reporting their food stamps benefits” as required. In addition, the report found ”dead people and prison inmates getting food stamp benefits” and their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards were ”actively being used at stores.” (Wonder how the cards made their way into circulation? Can’t imagine anything nefarious taking place from prison.)

You might be thinking, ”Okay, it’s food stamps – how much are we really talking about here?” Well, the report found the fraud cost taxpayers $2 million. (Sounds like real money to me.) How could your agency spend $2 million?

As in all instances of fraud, the question is: how do we stop it? If under-reporting or failing to report the food stamps benefits is how the fraud is being committed, it seems like the problem could be caught at the time of eligibility determination or re-determination. And, if people are lying about receiving food stamps benefits, what other benefits are they receiving and failing to disclose? So, here’s my question for you: what steps would you recommend putting in place to verify the applicant’s eligibility?

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Report: Public Housing Residents Defrauding Food Stamps,” written by Brian Crandall and published by turnto10.com on March 14, 2013.

A report on fraud and waste in Rhode Island’s human services delivery focused on food stamp fraud, among other things, and found a significant issue with residents in the Providence Housing Authority gaming the system.

For 35 years, Deborah Wray has lived in Hartford Park, a Providence Housing Authority complex.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.