Sunday, March 29, 2009

Welfare agencies using Facebook to nab fraudsters?

New Zealand welfare agency uses Facebook to nab fraudsters

Wellington - New Zealand's government welfare agency has confirmed it examines internet social network sites like Facebook to catch benefit fraudsters, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

Young mother Lauren Kaney, 22, of Mount Maunganui, was convicted in court last week of getting three times the weekly benefit she was entitled to, after claiming she lived on her own with her 2-year-old- son. In fact, her Bebo and Facebook pages revealed she was living with the boy's father, the Herald on Sunday reported.

Kaney admitted receiving 17,500 New Zealand dollars (nearly 10,000 US dollars) more than her entitlement and was sentenced to four months' home detention and 200 hours of community service. She told the paper it was a big surprise when she was caught after Ministry of Social Development investigators looked at her Bebo page.

'I didn't ever think they would look me up like that,' she said. 'It's not really fair of them to do that, but it wasn't fair of me to rip them off in the first place.'

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett has asked ministry staff to prepare a report on benefit fraud, which costs taxpayers about 60 million New Zealand dollars a year, the paper said.

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