Submitted by Paula J. Randall
Last year another major fraud was reported in the news involving compromised personal information. Thousands of people in North Carolina had their Social Security numbers and financial information stolen off their tax returns by computer hackers.
Fraud is now so pervasive that it takes a toll on everyone, even if you are not directly victimized. For example, we all pay the price by increased health or car insurance premiums and taxes. Today's fraudster is not only the stranger who knocks on your door to sell you a 'good deal' if you pay him now and will do the 'work' tomorrow. They're not just a big business CEO of a company or bank or a politician that we read about. They can be your co-workers, managers, vendors, or even family members. They can be in your golf league, your religious leader, your neighbor, or your health care provider.
Other fraudulent examples can be bogus medical charges, improper payments to a "deceased person" for SSI, lying about income for food stamps, or private construction company workers contracted to work on county projects but found working on private unrelated jobs on the taxpayers' dime.
So how do we help reduce our national debt? Some leaders call for budget cuts coupled with reduced spending. In this century, it is also vital to fight fraud at all government levels and with government-funded programs. Michael Sivy wrote in the December 5, 2012 issue of Time magazine, "…savings from eliminating one-quarter of current fraud would reduce cuts from the sequester by more than 10% for defense and by more than 40% for nondefense spending. While that doesn't offer a total solution to U.S. budget problems, it certainly makes sense to go after fraud aggressively before contemplating cuts that would do real harm to national security and the general welfare."
However, the Office of Inspector General, the Attorney General's Office, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice can't keep up with the increase in fraud cases, nor do they examine "smaller" cases. The answer is not in government creating more departments to audit itself. The answer is in the private sector. Contracting out fraud investigation services can be a cost-effective approach that not only reduces the national debt but also has a private citizen "minding the mint" over government entities. Anyway, aren't we supposed to be creating jobs, small businesses/ventures, and buying local to help our economy?
Paula has worked in government funded programs for over 20 years. She holds a Master's degree in Public Administration and received her certification as a Fraud Examiner.