The Australian Government Is Monitoring Welfare Recipients' Social Media Accounts

State and Federal Government agencies are using private investigators to conduct "optical surveillance" on members of the public, including monitoring the social media accounts of Centrelink recipients. This "open-source intelligence" is a growing trend, bringing questions about online privacy into the spotlight.

Evidence gathered from private social media accounts has been used to investigate Centrelink claims. According to The Daily Telegraph, and in one instance conversations on Twitter were used to prove the relationship status of a couple who were receiving payments as individuals.

eBay accounts are also being monitored in order to verify income claims.

In addition to Centrelink recipients, investigations into fraud and worker's compensation claims from Workcover NSW have seen contracts to the value of $3 million from the 2015-18 period awarded to more than 10 private investigators.

To date, more than $2 million in fraudulent claims have been discovered via social media surveillance, according to The Department of Human Services.

The Department of Human Services has been contacted for comment regarding the scope and full cost of the surveillance.


Comments

    First of all, don't friend random people and turn on your privacy settings. You don't want Jesse Briers level of privacy.

    Secondly, how are they even working out these people's ebay accounts? Do people use their full names on there?

      Maybe they are able to access their bank accounts, can see paypal/ebay transactions.

      Simple; Centrelink asks that you provide an email address when you register. The peeps would use that same address for their Facebook and ebay and everything-else account.

      I would say something about enabling privacy. But after meeting/dealing with a few of these dodgers and seeing how much tax goes into paying for someone to live because they "just don't feel like working" I say go for it.

      advanced search via email account??

      or if they have access to the bank account records it may show their ebay username in a payment description.

        Not in my account, however, Paypal transactions will appear.....

      If you're operating on a retail level, Ebay asks for some fairly detailed info these days, including possibly an ABN. If you're working on a personal level, the scale of what you sell wouldnt attract Centrelink.

      Pretty sure theres a turnover limit they monitor fairly closely (for arguments sake, $20k per annum), and the info is shared with the ATO so it wouldnt be a tough ask to either pass it on to Centrelink, or crossmatch.

      If people ARE hiding well enough to avoid that, there are other things that can give them away as well, like email addresses mentioned below.

    Good!
    I hope they catch these scum bags.
    My apartment complex / block is full of oxygen wasters who only seem to have disabilities in public view and who all seem to drive >$30,000k cars + free housing without ever working a day.

      In addition to Centrelink recipients, investigations into fraud and worker’s compensation claims from Workcover NSW have seen contracts to the value of $3 million from the 2015-18 period awarded to more than 10 private investigators.
      To date, more than $2 million in fraudulent claims have been discovered via social media surveillance, according The Department of Human Services.

      So they have spent $3 million on investigators to recover $2 million in claims?

        I'm pretty sure there was one case recently where they spent a few hundred thousand to recover 10k.

          For the argument of general government departmental stupidity, it's the principle that counts.

          So you're suggesting that they should just allow small claim fraud?

            well evidently its a million dollars cheaper.

              No it's three million cheaper. According to the quoted text the three million is just to investigate the claims.

            Wow...way to change the entire focus of the conversation.

            Okay, the gripe here is that government is spending way more than they are ever going to get in return. Yes, this means that they caught someone doing something "bad" but in the scheme of things, they are just wasting tax payer dollars.

            If the goal is to get the 10k back, then they should be spending no more than 5k. Such that, at the end of the day, they have at least made back half of what was "owed." Or at the most lost only half of what they went to recover.

            In the context of this article, the government has spent $3 million dollars to recover $2 million. Meaning the government has had a net loss of $1 million in this transaction.

            To put this in a simpler context:
            Susie, Bobby's Sister, pays Bobby $1 a week to keep him from getting his friend Paul from beating her up. Bobby is a jerk, and their Mum lives overseas..weird family.
            Bobby has $2 after 2 weeks
            George Steals Bobby's $2
            Bobby borrows $3 from his mum to pay Paul to get his $2 back.
            Paul beats up George and takes the $2 and gives it back to Bobby.
            Bobby now OWES his mum $3, but is now in debt for $1 as he can't pay her back.
            Bobby now must go and get money elsewhere, so he tells his Sister Susie, who just got her allowance, that she must pay him $2 or he will get Paul to beat her up...and the cycle continues.

            Alternative:
            Susie, Bobby's Sister, pays Bobby $1 a week to keep him from getting his friend Paul from beating her up. Bobby is a jerk, and their Mum lives overseas..weird family.
            Bobby has $2 after 2 weeks
            George Steals Bobby's $2
            Bobby borrows $1 from his mum to get Paul to threaten George to get his $2 back.
            George not wanting to get beaten up, gives Paul the $2, who gives the $2 back to Bobby.
            Bobby pays his mum back the $1 he borrowed, and now has $1 to spend on what he wants.
            Being greedy, Bobby tells his Sister Susie, who just got her allowance, that she must pay him $1 or he will get Paul to beat her up...

            E.g. there are better ways to spend money that result in a net gain where the government (Bobby) and the taxpayers (Susie) aren't just paying the lifestyles of the Pauls ("investigators") in the world. Obviously Bobby is still a Jerk, but at least Susie isn't getting beat up. Also, the George's get their Just deserts, which from Susie's point of view is okay, but she's conflicted since George hasn't really done anything to her, and she likes to see Bobby get his every once in a while...life is strange.

            So, no, don't let "small claim" ($2 mil?) fraud continue. But some governmental oversight needs to be in place to ensure we aren't cutting our noses off to spite our face.

              Lets put this into perspective. You're against catching criminals if it costs money. Well you had better fire the Police then. Because they cost nothing but money. While your at it. Get rid of the defence force as well, & the health system and the education system. Public services do not exist to make money. That's the point of public services otherwise they would be private businesses dim wit.

              Any article that says a public service costs more money then it makes is as obvious as it is stupid.

              Last edited 04/02/16 1:34 pm

                Way to call names, what are we in pre-school?

                Not once, in any context, did I say I was against catching criminals if it costs money. What I tried to explain, in quite simple details, was that there are likely better ways to spend tax payer dollars. Yes we need to catch criminals. However, the government (all governments) are known to just throw money at problems until they go away. Rather than, reviewing the problem and finding the best course of action to counteract the transgression.

                Do I know for a fact this isn't what has occurred in this instance. No.

                However, this whole argument wasn't for or against spending in order to catch criminals. Simply a statement to show the need for government oversight in order to reduce wasteful spending.

                  Not once, in any context, did I say I was against catching criminals if it costs money. See:government is spending way more than they are ever going to get in return.........they are just wasting tax payer dollars.

                  Last edited 05/02/16 3:15 pm

                  @mark_d
                  Sorry, for some reason it won't let me reply to your entry. Weird.

                  How is my stating that government spending way more than they are ever going to get in return the same as saying I am against them catching criminals if it costs money?

                  The whole context of my entry is about government overspending.

                  Please catch the criminals. Just have some government oversight.

              Right so government funds should only be spent on people who have jobs. Gotcha. Does that mean if a child's parents are unemployed they don't get to go to school?

          The thing is you can only really prosecute a handful of the worst and most blatant offenders properly.

          The hope is that the publicity generated from catching even 1 person would make the rest rethink their actions.

          The governments know they can't 100,000 people to court, but they can take the 10 worst to court and generate publicity out of it.

          Last edited 05/02/16 10:01 am

        Sure but if they spent nothing, then a helluva lot more people would be rorting the system. So think of the expenditure as being to create a deterrent as much as to recover fraudulently claimed money.

        I'd also point out that they have "discovered" $2mill in fraud, which is a very different thing from actually recovering it. Yet, if it remained undiscovered it could likely have led to millions more in fraudulent claims so the savings are hard to calculate.

        2 million from social media surveillance but these firms do other surveillance and recoup other money as well. the social media aspect has drive 2 million recovered but the total amount will be higher.

        so they have spent 3 million and have already secured 2 million back just from the social media monitoring.

        The $3 million in contracts continues to 2018. $2 million has been recovered so far and it's the start of 2016.

        Looks like they'll make the $3 million and then some before the contracts run out.

          "Discovered", not recovered. So nothing has been made back and is probably not likely to be.
          Remember, these are our poorest people, they can't really pay it all back, They'd be lucky to recover less than a quarter.

            Even if nothing is recovered, they won't be getting much if anything from centrelink anymore. Costs will be recouped that way.

        No, they have outlayed a minimum of $5 million
        $3 million to investigate all suspected cases and finding a subset of them are fraudulent, because not every suspected case will be fraudulent.

        $2 million has already gone out over welfare fraudulently...
        Government won't be getting that $2 million back More then likely those people will have to go to court instead, possibly jail, where it will cost the tax payers more then it does for workcover claims.

        So $5 million spent, little chance of recovering any, and more then likely to cost more then that in the long run.

          Maybe if they throw away another $10 mil on scamming private investigators they'll be able to scrounge back a few more cents from the poorest people in the country. It'll be such a huge success. :)

        Read it again. $3mill from 2015-2018. In 2015 they recovered $2mill. If you multiply that by 3yrs (assuming funding ends Dec 2017), that is $6mill.

          Read it again. $2million was discovered, not recovered. People won't pay that back, as rukus said.

        It said 3mil for contracts from 2015 to 2018 and have recovered 2mil so far, just after 1 year. If it stays the same then they will recover 8mil by spending 3mil.

          2 million discovered.... not recovered...

      I'm all for helping people that need help but those that abuse the system need to be caught. Then again perhaps the cost of policing a system is great than the amount of money you recover that was fraudulent gained???

      dangit, why'd you have to reply to my comment (by accident?), now i'm getting spammed with notifications.

      Thirty million dollar cars? God damn welfare cheats, so sick of them driving their Gulfstream 500s down to the servo to pick up a pack of winnies and a quarter tank of aviation fuel.

      Dude if you have a job you should probably move out of the commission flats and stop mooching off the government.

    Nah, they should just close Centrelink, and get rid of the fraud and save $150bil per year.

    If Joe Bloggs can abuse the system and spend Centrelink money on Smokes and booze which provide no advantage to him our his situation, why isn't the government giving me money to spend on Lego?

    Here's a radical idea !?!? Perhaps this government should actually spend more time and effort sorting out the economy. $2million is nothing in the grand scheme of things. If they created only 100 new jobs the economic benefits would be far greater than chasing a few fraudsters and it would be better for all of us.

    That's fucking hilarious! They threw away 3 million dollars just to "discover" that some of the poorest people in the country had claimed an extra 2 million. So that's FIVE MILLION in total they're in the hole for now.
    How imbecilic are these morons in the government?

    Even if they could get all of that $2 million back, they'd still be 50% worse off than when they started.

    @ozoneocean

    Lets let it go unabated and allow all sorts of fraudulent bullshit claims to just flow through the system. If you used your infantile brain to understand that 'discovery' of these fraudulent claims also leads to the situation where the government suspends payments and garnishes welfare payments to these lowlife degenerates, then the overall saving outweighs the initial outlay.

    My guess is you grew up in or as a result of that lower socio-economic welfare cheats and think its an acceptable practice to defraud the commonwealth because you are so hard done by.

    All you people sticking up for these pathetic excuses need to have your head checked.

    IT IS THEFT.

    Or do you condone that poor shaz and daz who spent their welfare cheques on durries & ice & alcohol - or a new double chambered bong / ice pipe and have to resort to theiving from woolworths/coles to subsidise the children they are claiming on is an ok thing to do?

    Loser.

      "lowlife degenerates"
      That right there. This is your problem. Poor people are poor, their financial situation doesn't describe their intelligence, ability, manners, or culture.

      As to your guess about myself- no. My dad was a bank executive and merchant banker. I was never deprived or grew up needing welfare. But that doesn't mean I don't sympathise with those that do.

      "Theft" is far too dramatic a term. If it IS theft though then it occurs on a far larger scale with middle class tax fiddling, on an even larger scale still with tax fraud by the wealthy and businesses, and an enormous scale with big business. Do you condone that?

      Meanwhile $3 million is being burnt persecuting the poorest, most disadvantaged people in this country for absolutely no reason or advantage to the rest of the country. We'd be far better off if we overlooked the $2 million and then gifted them the $3 million as well in the form of scholarships for their children or interest free loans to buy houses.

      Last edited 04/02/16 6:50 pm

        Yes, my dad manages a trillion dollar hedge fund also and we have private jets and cruise ships.

        Such a great idea you have because hand outs have always worked in the past.

        I never said poor people were lowlife degenerates - i stated that people who defraud the commonwealth were - it was you who made that connection.

        You carry on about them wasting money by trying to stem the amount of welfare fraud - you do realise that the money these people are fraudulently claiming is also adversely affecting the poor that really need it? How can you be so stupid and blind that you think allow fraud to continue is the best course of action.

        Absolute stupidity. Retarded.

        You can harp on all you like about distributing the money - but all that would achieve is less in the coffers as the advantage is taken yet again and again as time has shown.

        Labor voters are always right, aren't you?

          I never said poor people were lowlife degenerates - i stated that people who defraud the commonwealth were - it was you who made that connection.

          No, you just implied it. Oh wait...

          ... where the government suspends payments and garnishes welfare payments to these lowlife degenerates...

          Yeah you did. Anyone receiving welfare is by definition poor. Even if they cheat the system like your "example" of "Shaz and Daz", you're still talking about the lowest socioeconomic classes.

            another socialist keyboard warrior.
            Considering my dad receives a government pension, you are drawing a very long bow.

            Just because you are poor does not give you carte blanche to defraud the commonwealth of tax payer funds to line your pockets.

            Just because you read and choose to interpret what i have written as 'lowlife degenerates' on an article which is clearly about those who CHEAT/DEFRAUD/STEAL money they are not owed as all people on welfare says a lot about how majority of you whingers feel as though you are entitled to something you are not.

            In short, blow me.

            That's reads and means exactly as it should.

            Clear enough for you?

              Considering my dad receives a government pension, you are drawing a very long bow.

              Just because you are poor does not give you carte blanche to defraud the commonwealth of tax payer funds to line your pockets.

              So it's not okay to defraud the government if you're poor, but if you're a "hedge fund manager", like your dad, it's okay?

              Riiiiiiight.

              And, for the record, I'm a Liberal voter. I'd also wager I'm wealthier than you. What's your point exactly?

            Exactly.
            And the fact that he seems to have a complex about his dad is also pretty telling. I know it's a bit Ad Hominem, but this sort of self hating attitude is pretty key to the kind of people support the coalition in crapping on the poor: they don't have much money themselves, but rather than taking action against the very wealthy who keep them in that position they'd rather kick the poor, who're the only ones lower than them (in their eyes).
            It's like the down trodden servant of a wealthy lord- when abused rather than rising up he kicks the dog instead.

    I thought someone, at least, would pick up on the oxmoron - online privacy.

    The ATO can request eBay transaction history for eBay accounts that have sold a certain amount of good. Got a notification last year informing me that I met the criteria and records would be submitted

    I believe the government are doing the right thing in trying to catch these people, it is essentially theft, however maybe they need to find better ways to analyse these people such as data analytics. In the recent 5 years we have been making huge strides towards this and if they designed a system that would automatically go around and scan these peoples profiles and then prompt a human to review anything it may have flagged as suspicious the costs would be cheaper in the long run. I am not denying the initial outlay would be expensive, however if they keep doing what they are currently doing it's only going to get more expensive anyway. So why not do it more efficiently and settle on a long term solution for catching these people.

    the ATO is already starting to make strides towards this too. (maybe they need to learn to consolidate these methods better under one umbrella)

    It acts as a deterrent because people are right realistically your not going to recover all this money off people, but you are going to stop them abusing the system and continuing to claim what they are not entitled too. It is also a brilliant deterrent to get those that are abusing it to stop. If they realise people are actually starting to be caught they might think twice about ripping the system off.

    I know lots of people I believe that shouldn't be on the benefits they're are on and others that probably should have certain benefits. (maybe if some of the cheats were caught some of the people that actually need the benefit wouldn't find it so hard to get on it)

    1) Its a good thing, I never had to rely on CenterLink for anything.
    2) I haven't used my Facebook account in a very long time, plus, I haven't posted shit in years.
    3) I have stopped using public mail services.
    4) I use a VPN....

    Last edited 09/02/16 6:24 pm

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