By: Matt Horn
Florida’s welfare recipients are the latest target of identity thieves, stealing from those who need it most. The state says it needs to stop. “For some reason Florida has the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft in the nation,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary, David Wilkins.
Nine of the top 10 cities in the country for identity theft are right here in the sunshine state. “In 2011 and 2012 the division of public assistance fraud investigated just over 6,600 cases of suspected public assisted fraud,” said Deputy CFO over law enforcement, Jay Etheridge.
A new state program will now make it more difficult for thieves to steal people’s identities and gaining access to state benefits. It’s expected to save the state 60-million dollars a year. “You’re saving months and potentially years of money going out the door,” said Wilkins.
The state is reaching out to local police for help. “I want to put those individuals who choose to commit these crimes; I want to put them on notice. If you commit the fraud we will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” said Tallahassee Chief of Police, Dennis Jones.
92-percent of cases that were investigated over the last two years were charged or disqualified for future state benefits.