BAFFLED local residents have uncovered a complex plot involving scammers stealing identities to claim flood grant benefits.
After Griffith was declared a natural disaster zone following the floods in early March, the government unlocked one-off, tax-free funding grants of $1000 for adults and $400 for children affected by floods.
The Area News last month reported dozens of local residents – including one on Banna Avenue – were taking advantage of flood victims by claiming grants despite never having been affected by the floods.
But the scam has been taken one step further.
Griffith resident Brooke O’Sullivan was bewildered when she opened a letter from Centrelink this week, telling her that her claim for a $1000 flood grant had been accepted and the money would be deposited into her account.
Ms O’Sullivan had never applied for or received any grant and the letter had been sent to her parents’ address in West Griffith.
Neither address was directly impacted by the floods.
Despite being in her name, Ms O’Sullivan discovered that the bank account was not hers.
She contacted Centrelink and was informed the money had already been deposited.
The matter was referred to the Centrelink fraud department.
“It’s a bit disappointing to see people claiming the flood grant when they genuinely were not affected at all by the floods just because it is available – and then have to make up a story as to why they should receive the assistance –as was the case with the claim made in my name,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
“There should be more in-depth checks in place to verify a person’s details before any kind of assistance is paid.”
Ms O’Sullivan is believed to be one of many locals who have been taken advantage of under the scam with a
close friend of hers also receiving the same letter a
few weeks earlier despite never having applied for the money.
Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said while the vast majority of people who claim flood assistance payments were honest, there was a small proportion of people who set out to take advantage of the welfare system.
“Anybody found to be deliberately defrauding the system will be asked to repay the money and may be risking prosecution and a lengthy jail sentence,” Mr Jongen said.