Urgent warning issued to Australians wrongly claiming flood payment

Authorities have issued a stern warning to Australians considering claiming disaster payments to which they are not entitled.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last week announced a series of new emergency support payments for people living in NSW’s 23 hardest hit council areas following torrential downpours.

Affected residents will be eligible for disaster payments of $1,000 for adults and $400 for children.

But with the promise of free money comes fraud. And the internet erupted with Australians joking about plans to fraudulently claim the payments.

The comedians have posted videos of themselves throwing electronics into their swimming pools and wetting their rugs as “proof” that they deserve to be paid.

Anger is growing over speculation Australians are filing bogus claims for government disaster payments as a viral trend emerges joking online about how to fake an app after new support is announced

TikTok comedian Jon Bernard Kairouz is one of many people posting clips joking about how to fake a $1,000 government flood payment.  It is not suggested that he, or anyone else in this story, actually did it.

TikTok comedian Jon Bernard Kairouz is one of many people posting clips joking about how to fake a $1,000 government flood payment. It is not suggested that he, or anyone else in this story, actually did it.

It is not suggested that any of the many Australians joking about cheating did it themselves.

However, taxpayer-funded payment schemes for natural disasters have been exploited during recent floods.

In March, Daily Mail Australia reported that thousands of Australians who were unaffected by recent weather conditions appeared to be claiming the payments.

On Friday, the New South Wales government confirmed it had already identified 3,000 cases of suspected fraud linked to the state government’s round of grants from February to March.

Service NSW Acting CEO Laura Christie called the actions of people who defraud disaster payments ‘incredibly disappointing’.

Those arrested are ordered to repay what they have received and face prosecution and criminal charges. In New South Wales, the maximum penalty for fraud is 10 years in prison.

Ms Christie said fraudsters could be audited two years after a claim, investigated by fraud teams and then referred to the police.

This man plays in a joke video by pouring water on his carpet like a

This man stars in a joke video by pouring water on his carpet as supposed ‘proof’ he was eligible for a flood payout

A federal government spokesperson encouraged people to cheat with an anti-fraud hotline (131,524).

Services Australia chief executive Hank Jongen told Daily Mail Australia that “the vast majority” of people claiming disaster recovery payments “are honest and in dire need of help”.

“While natural disasters bring out the best in our communities, unfortunately we see some people trying to commit fraud, he said.

Services Australia gave the example of a Queenslander sentenced to two years and eight months in jail for using fake IDs to falsely claim flood-related disaster payments in Far North Queensland in 2019 and NSW in 2021.

Another Aussie jokes about

Another Aussie jokes about ‘flooding’ his garden so he can receive payment

A 32-year-old woman who asked not to be named told Daily Mail Australia that she and her husband each successfully claimed a $1,000 federal grant in 2022 for mold in their mid-west unit of Sydney – even though she was undamaged.

She admitted they tell friends ‘it takes about 20 minutes and nobody asks questions’.

“It’s easy money.”

Flood victims will be eligible for a new disaster payment announced by the federal government.  Pictured, a resident of McGraths Hill checks on neighbors in Sydney's northwest on Wednesday morning

Flood victims will be eligible for a new disaster payment announced by the federal government. Pictured, a resident of McGraths Hill checks on neighbors in Sydney’s northwest on Wednesday morning

TikTok comedian Jon Bernard Kairouz is one of many people posting clips joking about how to fake a $1,000 government flood payout – throwing an esky into the pool to show off the waves.

Other clips show a Sydney man stomping water on his carpet saying “you want proof, I’m sending you proof”. Money, money, money!’ and a woman watering her back yard ‘so I can claim NSW Flood Payment’.

Although there is no suggestion that the online pranksters have made false claims, the content suggests that this new type of welfare fraud is popular.

The social media response to the jokes on TikTok has been mixed, with most acknowledging the humor.

But many were concerned about what they saw as a normalization of fraud.

An NSW mother facing a damage bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars has told Daily Mail Australia that anyone who makes a false claim is 'af*** wit' (pictured is her flooded <a class=home on the coast central NSW)” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

An NSW mother facing a damage bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars has told Daily Mail Australia that anyone who makes a false claim is ‘af*** wit’ (pictured is her flooded home on the coast central NSW)

The anonymous NSW mother said she was facing thousands in repair and rebuilding costs and some people are claiming

The anonymous NSW mother said she was facing thousands in repair and rebuild costs and some people claim ‘because they just want a new iPhone’

“I hate to be that guy, but people claiming relief benefits when they don’t need them are the reason for inflation and everything so expensive.”

One man replied, “Yeah no, that won’t stop the thousands of people who are going to claim it.”

Many commenters seemed to suggest that they claimed or knew people who were.

‘Oh no don’t expose what we’re doing at Centrelink,’ one man said, while another commented that a joke video depicted ‘everyone in Penrith right now’.

An NSW mother facing a damages bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars has told Daily Mail Australia that anyone who makes a false claim is ‘f*** wit’.

A number of people have broken previous flood payment schemes (pictured)

A number of people have broken previous flood payment schemes (pictured)

The woman, who did not want to be named because she was ‘too traumatised’ after her Chittaway Bay home flooded in early July, was furious that people were making false claims.

“Oh look, we thought it was a funny TikTok, but at the same time there needs to be more payment regulation.

“Those genuinely affected might get more if they didn’t distribute money to people in the same neighborhood who might have a slightly soggy yard.”

“We’re facing thousands of repair and rebuild costs and they just want a new iPhone.”

She said it was too easy for people to meet the requirement to provide proof of flood damage.

If it was harder, “people with real problems could get $5,000 each instead of $1,000 and the f*** wits would get what they deserve – f*** all”.

The mum said she even met a friend who told her he was planning to claim but had suffered no damage.

“I suggested they claim and give the money to someone who really needs it.”

Service NSW Acting CEO Laura Christie confirmed “at least 3,000 cases of suspected fraud relating to the February-March 2022 flood grants have been identified to date”.

DISASTER RECOVERY PAYMENT CLAIMS GONE WRONG

The following case studies are examples of fraud prosecutions resulting from bogus Australian government disaster recovery payments in recent disasters:

NSW person sentenced to 14 months in prison and ordered to repay $20,342

  • They used stolen identities to fraudulently claim payments for the NSW bushfires in September 2019.

NSW person sentenced to community correction order for 27 months and fined $5,000

  • They fraudulently claim payments for the NSW bushfires in September 2019

NSW person sentenced to community correction order for 2 years and fined $1,700.

  • They fraudulently claimed payments for the NSW bushfires in September 2019. They provided false statements to claim for themselves and their two children a property they did not reside in or suffered damage.

A person from Queensland sentenced to 2 years and 8 months imprisonment.

  • They used fake and stolen identities to fraudulently claim payments during several catastrophic events, including the Pandemic Disaster Payment and the AGDRP for the Far North Queensland floods in February 2019 and the floods of New South Wales in March 2021.

Source: Services Australia

About Matthew R. Dailey

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