Image courtesy of GotCredit on Flickr
As citizens of the wealthiest nation on earth, Americans are committed to providing a social safety net for friends, neighbors and even strangers who are going through tough times. But they have little patience for people who take advantage of their generosity, and those who cross that line risk paying a price.
Dating back to the legislative initiatives of the New Deal and the Great Society, America has had a suite of welfare programs in place, from unemployment insurance to food stamps, to help people meet their basic needs. Although the screening process for this aid is rigorous, a small percentage of cheaters do manage to game the system. Those who are caught often make the wrong kind of headlines, fueling outrage that places political support for the programs – and the honest taxpayers who rely on them – in jeopardy.
It’s impossible to say how widespread welfare fraud really is in the U.S. Studies have pegged the percentage of recipients cheating by one means or another as low as the low single digits to as high as one-third to half. What no one disputes, though, is that rooting out cheaters is costly and difficult.
The manpower required to monitor welfare is expensive and staffing levels are stretched too thin to put every application under a microscope. As a result, states are increasingly turning to taxpayers to help police the system with anonymous tip lines.
STOPit’s partner WeTip is an industry leader in welfare fraud reporting, having served the nation with anonymous tip programs for nearly 50 years. Since 2006, WeTip has received over 29,000 anonymous tips regarding welfare fraud, leading to thousands of convictions, according to company CEO Sue Aguilar. In Los Angeles County alone, the WeTip Welfare Fraud Program thwarted hundreds of scams in its first five years, saving taxpayers over $18 million, she said.
“More people than ever are reaching out and turning in someone they suspect of welfare fraud,” Aguilar said. “The WeTip Program is successfully attacking welfare fraud one case at a time.”
All allegations are assigned to a special investigations unit to assess their veracity. Those who are found to be in violation can face penalties from mandatory restitution payments to jail time. Often, citizens reaching out to report fraud will share other information of interest to law enforcement.
One key to WeTips success is that their operators are trained to route tips appropriately and send to associated agencies when needed. A fraud call may uncover other issues in the community as these fraud cases can be complex. “Many, many times, the WeTip informant will give additional information regarding child and elder abuse. Those tips are also relayed to child and adult protective services,” Aguilar said.
For information on implementing an anonymous welfare fraud reporting program in your community, call WeTip at (909) 987-5005 ext. 230. Live operators staff the phones 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. WeTip has no taping, tracing or caller ID. Contact WeTip if your community or service would like to add a tip line.