When Disaster Strikes


When it comes to the different kinds of fraud out there, some are certainly worse than others. Some kinds of fraud are so heartless that you have to wonder how these criminals can go through with it. Disaster fraud is one of those. How can someone willingly take money away from someone who lived through a disaster and is trying to piece their life back together? Though many of us can’t understand it, Infozine.com features a story about three individuals who pleaded guilty to fraud related to benefits from the Joplin tornado.

The article reports that by falsely claiming that their property had been damaged by the storm, these individuals, in separate and unrelated cases, collected between $938 and $5,628 in public assistance. Much of the information listed by these individuals on their Federal Emergency Management Agency benefit applications was simply fictional. (Hard to fix a roof if it doesn’t exist.)

Part of the problem is that there isn’t a whole lot of time from when a disaster strikes to when the applications start flooding in to check up on the veracity of a benefit recipient’s claims. The humanitarian urge in most of us immediately thinks ”how terrible!” instead of ”maybe these guys are fraudsters.” It’s sad to think that someone would even dream of defrauding this system, but hey, the world is a scary, scary place.

Each of the defendants is subject to up to 30 years in prison in addition to a fine of $250,000. (Floggings anyone? No? OK.)

What’s important here is that the people who need the benefits should receive them. Contrary to popular belief, authenticating and validating the identity of a claimant doesn’t have to be a time consuming process. By leveraging identity-based filters, agencies can generally can quickly learn whether there is a potential for fraud in the claim.

So, here’s the question for the day: do you think it makes sense to leverage identity-based filters to verify the identities of individuals claiming disaster benefits?

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on the article entitled, ”Three Plead Guilty to Disaster Fraud Related to Joplin Tornado Benefits,” published by Infozine.com on July 10, 2012.

The defendants applied for federal disaster benefits by falsely claiming that their homes and property had been damaged or destroyed in the tornado.

Springfield, MO – infoZine – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that three Joplin, Missouri residents have pleaded guilty in federal court, in separate and unrelated cases, to fraudulently receiving federal disaster benefits following the May 22, 2011 tornado.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.