Welfare cheats living in Melbourne’s southwest have been put on notice they will be caught as federal police and fraud investigators swarm.
Australian Federal Police and Federal Department of Human Services officers will be stationed at Centrelink offices in Werribee and Sunshine over the next few days to catch rorters.
They will also be at Pacific Werribee Shopping Centre to take tip-offs from the public, under the federal operation.
Investigators will conduct “snap audits” on people with a history of non-compliance or whose case files have been flagged due to suspicious activity, Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said in a statement on Tuesday.
Almost $11 million worth of benefits was clawed back from 2600 ineligible individuals when the task force last visited Werribee in 2015.
“The dollar figure was the largest from a single site in the task force’s three-year history and represents more than one-quarter of the $40 million in debts that have been raised from a total of 19 operations conducted right across Australia,” Mr Keenan said.
Most people do the right thing, only taking what they were legitimately entitled to, but others ripped off their fellow citizens, the minister told reporters in Melbourne.
“For those who resort to criminal activity to defrauding the system … we have very sophisticated systems that can find you and make sure that you are prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law,” he said.
“We have no tolerance for people defrauding the welfare system, we have no tolerance for welfare cheats.”
Mr Keenan said while the “generous” welfare system relied on people telling the truth, the operation would find rorters and make them repay the money.
Some cases may be referred to the federal police and lead to fraud charges and possibly jail time.