Are you Fighting Fraud, or Sitting by While it Happens?


We all have a role to play in reducing Improper Payments

Have you ever run into something while parking your car?

If you answered “yes”, then you know how it feels to be instantly flooded with regret. “Why didn’t I just back up?”, or “I should’ve listened to the sensors!”. The 5 seconds you saved avoiding that 3-point turn ends up costing you exponentially more time and stress, not to mention the repair costs. If only you could jump into your DeLorean and travel back in time just 1 minute to fix it.

Last Thursday, my husband scraped the side of his car on a post in the parking garage. He felt like an idiot and was anxious to get it repaired before the weekend’s road trip. The combination made him a prime target for the pair of auto body repair scam artists who pulled into our driveway that same evening. The “mechanics” promised to fix the car in a fraction of the time and cost of an auto body shop.

Fortunately, my husband realized it was a scam and when they couldn’t produce any credentials he sent them away. Unfortunately, it wasn’t soon enough and they’d already begun spraying primer all over the car, expediting that trip to the auto body shop.

Most of us have been targeted by a scammer at some point in our lives. After all, there’s dizzying number of scams out there—everything from pyramid schemes to IRS imposters to fake charities.

And it seems the Federal Government has the biggest target on its back. In my last blog, Fighting Fraud with Analytics—A Lesson from Brazil, I shared how Brazil loses upwards of $80 billion annually to fraud, and what they’re doing to stop it.

Here in the US, the cost is even higher. The Government Accountability Office estimated that $144 billion in improper payments were made in fiscal year 2016.

Those agencies whose missions focus on uncovering fraud—like the Office of the Inspector General—have fraud detection top-of-mind. But ALL agencies can benefit from simple practices to flag questionable expenditures.

Glass half-full: there’s plenty of room for improvement. And armed with data and modern analytics technology, agencies can easily gain insight into where these problems are occurring and take action.

For example, by analyzing Medicare services received, Health and Human Services can identify high utilizers of the system and proactively address needs and focus on prevention. The Social Security Administration can consolidate income sources by recipient to flag excluded sources and aid in accurate computation. And the Department of Homeland Security can combine traveler data with employment data to predict air travel surges and shift schedules accordingly to meet demand while reducing overtime pay.

These are just a few examples of how agencies can reduce fraud, waste and abuse. Whether you’re a government employee or contractor, a member of the Senior Executive Service or just starting your career, you can be part of the solution.

Heather Gittings is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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