Published: October 17, 2017
3 Minutes

What Is Welfare Fraud?


Steve Symanovich

Staff writer

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People walking together in a crowd, illustrating the collective effort needed to prevent and combat welfare fraud.


Welfare fraud is the use and abuse of government safety-net programs. It occurs when someone receives benefits, such as cash, food, housing or health care, that they don’t qualify for. Welfare fraud sometimes involves identity theft. A criminal may use a stolen identity to receive public assistance meant for people most in need.

In this article, you’ll learn more about welfare fraud, how it occurs, and what you can do to protect yourself.

What is welfare fraud? 7 examples

Welfare fraud most often occurs when someone gives inaccurate or incomplete information to qualify for benefits that they otherwise wouldn’t be eligible to receive.

Here are seven ways a person might commit welfare fraud:

  • Not reporting income or employment
  • Not disclosing personal assets
  • Claiming to be a single parent while the other parent lives in the same home
  • Submitting a claim for ineligible or fictitious children
  • Using false identification to receive aid
  • Selling food stamps for cash
  • Collecting benefits in multiple states

5 ways to help protect yourself from welfare fraud

Welfare fraud can target the living and the deceased.

Criminals sometimes apply for benefits using the names and personal information of people who have died. In other cases, identity thieves steal the personal information of living people and use it to obtain benefits.

Here are five ways to help protect yourself and your family.

  1. Beware of benefit scams. Scam artists sometimes call pretending to offer government benefits you may qualify for. They want to gather your personal information, which could lead to identity theft. If you receive a call, hang up and contact the agency directly if you need specific benefits. Or get on the National Do Not Call Registry to avoid your phone number being as widely available for sale. This makes it a bit less likely you may be contacted.
  2. Secure your mailbox. Whether you receive public assistance or not, make sure your mail is deliverable to a secure mailbox. Thieves sometimes steal government letters and other mail to commit identity theft.
  3. Protect your Social Security number and other personal information. A Social Security number is a key piece of information needed to apply for public assistance benefits. Criminals can use it and other readily available personal information to apply for welfare benefits.
  4. Report the death of a loved one. The Social Security Administration should be notified when a family member dies. The funeral home can make the report when you provide the deceased person’s Social Security number. Click here for more details.
  5. Report a missing Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. If you receive welfare benefits and your EBT card is lost or stolen, report it to the welfare office. If funds are missing from your card, file a police report.

Welfare fraud is not only a serious crime, but also a reviled one. That’s because criminals steal funds that low-income families and others may legitimately need to survive.

If someone uses your identity to commit welfare fraud, you may face the added challenge of having to fix the problem. And that can cost time and money.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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