Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Social Security Fraud

Social Security Fraud

Social Security fraud is an important part of the CDPP’s practice. The Department of Human Services (DHS) refers briefs of evidence in relation to allegations that people have intentionally engaged in conduct that has seen them receive social security benefits they know they are not entitled to.

Cases typically involve someone receiving benefits that have been calculated on a false premise.

For example, the person claims they are unemployed when in fact they are in paid employment, or they are single when in fact they are in a relationship.

Cases can also involve people using false identities to direct payments to their own bank account, frauds involving false claims for care of children and frauds whereby a person receives benefits on behalf of someone who is dead or where multiple identities are used to obtain multiple benefits. 

If there has been continuing fraud over many years, prosecutions may involve significant sums of money. Social security fraud prosecutions can also be very complex and demanding, and involve technical evidence of DHS’s benefits systems. There has also been considerable innovation with customers now able to claim benefits and provide information through technology such as voice recognition systems, mobile apps and electronic facilities. As a consequence, a large proportion of social security fraud is committed online. Evidence of electronic systems and their operation form an important part of briefs of evidence from DHS.

We work closely with the DHS to achieve best practice when investigating and prosecuting in this important area. Prosecution action deters people from committing social security fraud which in turn protects Commonwealth resources and ensures support is provided where it is most needed in our community.

Key legislation

Main offences

  • s.134.1(1) Criminal Code—obtaining property by deception
  • s.134.2(1) Criminal Code—obtaining a financial advantage by deception
  • s.135.1(5) Criminal Code—general dishonesty—causing a loss
  • s.135.2(1) Criminal Code—obtaining a financial advantage.

Penalties

The maximum penalties are:

  • 10 years’ imprisonment for offences of obtaining property and obtaining a financial advantage by deception
  • 10 years’ imprisonment for an offence of general dishonesty
  • 12 months’ imprisonment for an offence of obtaining a financial advantage.

Partner agency

Practice Group Instructions (PGI)

PGI RBF No. 1 –  PDF icon Charging Centrelink omission prosecutions pursuant to section 135.2 of the Criminal Code

PGI CFC No. 3 –  PDF icon Dishonesty offences under the Criminal Code

PGI RBF No. 4 – PDF icon Characterisation of social security fraud as omission or commission offending