Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Social Security Fraud

Social Security Fraud

We receive more briefs from the Department of Human Services (DHS) than any other agency. These briefs refer 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 fraud—for example, 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. 

We work closely with the DHS to achieve best practice when investigating and prosecuting in this important area. Through our prosecutions we want to deter people from committing social security fraud, protect Commonwealth resources and ensure 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
  • 5 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