Across Centrelink, Medicare and child support, the government spends a whopping $174 billion annually.
It’s a complex, expensive system – which is what leaves it open to scammers and rorters.
Now, the government is vowing to crack down on those who take advantage.
“Ours is the most targeted welfare scheme in the world,” Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert told A Current Affair.
While there’s no shortage of people making false claims about disability, income or their relationship status to scam benefits, the government is turning its attention now to online fraudsters.
These crooks come from around the globe to target welfare recipients and their identities.
“It’s quite traumatic losing your identity, losing your documents, seeing money being drained from your bank account, and it’s not your fault,” Mr Robert said.
The government has just signed ID Care, an identity and cyber support service, for another three years.
“It’s designed to provide mitigation and response to people who have been the victim of identity fraud,” Mr Robert said.
The number of Australians being scammed is growing, costing the government tens of millions of dollars each year.
Mr Robert said the government’s fraud and scam hotline had taken 8900 calls in the past 12 months.
Of those more than 2000 were referred to ID Care for action.
New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are the top states for victims, while those aged 45-64 are the most targeted.
The most common type of identity theft and fraud is through phishing scams.
Thousands of Australians fall victim to fake emails with fake links each year, allowing fraudsters to drain their bank accounts.
But the number of those being prosecuted for scamming and fraud is also rising.
The government’s latest weapon in their fight on fraud, a multi-million-dollar lab, is targeting digital criminals across Australia.
“We’ve seen 50 very successful prosecutions in the courts, we had 3300 cases that we looked at last year, and we’ve looked at 1000 cases in the last two months,” Mr Robert said.
Mohammed Omar was convicted of defrauding the National Disability Insurance Scheme of nearly half a million dollars.
He was sentenced in July to four years in jail.
Mr Roberts said he feared more fraud would emerge targeting the NDIS – but the government’s new digital forensics lab in Brisbane will target those scammers in turn.
“My message to fraudsters is very clear,” he said.
“Our tech, our compliance, our procedures, our personnel – they’re more sophisticated than you, they’re better resourced than you. We will come after you, we will find you, and we will prosecute you.”