Florida DCF is Fighting Fraud—it’s not a matter of if we catch you, it’s when


Florida DCF is Fighting Fraud—it’s not a matter of if we catch you, it’s when

A few weeks ago, I stood alongside partner agencies and law enforcement to announce new anti-fraud initiatives we are putting in place at the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Our agency is responsible for determining eligibility for public assistance benefits and ensuring that those benefits get to Florida families most in need. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, because we are talking about your tax dollars that are set aside for those in our communities struggling through a difficult time and needing assistance to get back on their feet.

The federal government estimates that three to five percent of public assistance dollars are lost each year to fraud. That is far too much, and we are putting new systems, partnerships and initiatives in place to ensure that your hard-earned tax dollars are protected and not lining the pockets of criminals.

As we reviewed the tactics criminals were using to game our system, it was clear that we had to find a way to tackle identity theft and catch the criminals who were using stolen identities to qualify for benefits. Unfortunately, Florida has the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints in the nation.

So we took action, and now Florida is leading the nation in using technology to combat identity theft in public benefits. We are the first state to implement customer authentication, a security measure that has been used in the private sector to verify a customer’s identity. Most Floridians will be familiar with this technology because they’ve probably encountered it through their financial institutions. We are piloting the new technology in Central Florida, and we have already saved the state three times more than we had anticipated. If these initial results are applied statewide, there is a potential for the state to save more than $60 million annually in fraud avoidance.

The success of these anti-fraud initiatives is important for Florida, but they can also have a much larger impact. We hope that other states will see the success we are having and the taxpayer dollars we are saving and begin the process of implementing commonsense anti-fraud initiatives in their state.

And this is just the beginning. This summer we will be rolling out this technology statewide and announcing additional tactics we are using to combat fraud and protect taxpayer dollars. Along with our partners in law enforcement, we are putting the crooks on notice—it’s not a matter of if we catch you, it’s when.

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Secretary David Wilkins brings decades of experience in business and charitable leadership to the Florida Department of Children and Families. His vision for the Department is focused on empowering front-line staff, engaging communities, improving programs and helping families become accountable and self-sufficient.