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State and local government employees say that they expect fraud to increase, and they would like to spend more time preventing than investigating it, a new survey found.
Most employees in state and local governments believe instances of fraud, waste and abuse will increase in the next two years, according to a new survey.
Fifty-three percent of government workers surveyed by Thomson Reuters said they believe the prevalence of fraud will increase, compared to 38% who said it will stay the same and 9% that said it will decrease between now and 2024.
Respondents said they have encountered several new tactics used by criminals trying to game the system, including the use of automated bot attacks, multiple email addresses belonging to one online account and fraud kits sold on the dark web that contain document templates for stolen or synthetic identification documents.
Employees said they have also seen a rise in bogus online pharmacies that attempt to buy prescription drugs, and an increase in the use of social media schemes using payment platforms like Venmo and PayPal to try and defraud governments.
The most common fraud attempts use forged or fake documents, respondents said, while the next most common tactic is billing for unnecessary goods or services, overcharging or billing for services or goods that were never delivered. Employees also reported frequently seeing the misuses of codes on specific claims, kickbacks and bribes, unauthorized account access, synthetic identity or business fraud and paying for the referrals of program beneficiaries.
While fraud detection and prevention solutions exist, agency staff said they face a number of internal challenges to implementing them, according to the survey. Among the biggest issues are increasing workloads, a lack of resources, low recruitment, the loss of institutional knowledge as staff retire, the adoption and implementation of new technologies and keeping up with emerging issues.
Some blamed remote work for making it harder to prevent, detect and investigate fraud, because it gives them only a limited ability to meet with applicants who may be seeking government help and vendors in person.
And 70% said they still rely on cross-checking government databases of social benefit recipients with other records within their state — like death or prison records — to catch fraudsters. More than half said they depend on whistleblowers to catch criminals. More than 70% of workers investigating fraud said they use Google searches to aid with their investigations, and 54% said they search government records.
Twenty-five percent of those surveyed said they take advantage of new technologies like artificial intelligence to detect any irregularities. The loss of millions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic to fraudulent applications for unemployment insurance and other programs has prompted some to call for a greater embrace of technologies like AI to help catch criminals.
Indeed, while 27% of governments’ work is on the front-end prevention of fraud, those surveyed said they would like to spend 37% of their time on it. Meanwhile, respondents said 32% of their time is spent on detecting fraud, but they would like to see that figure drop to 26%, a trend that those behind the survey said showed “perhaps that front-line government employees continue to perceive prevention as a more efficient and effective way to safeguard the public trust.”