Monday, July 5, 2010

Scammers target heating program

From the NY Post:

Thousands of coldhearted New Yorkers used the names of dead people to scam the federal government last year out of millions of dollars in funds earmarked to help poor people with their heat and energy bills, according to a new study.

Using stolen Social Security numbers -- or the names of dearly departed friends and family -- nearly 7,400 New Yorkers wrote the names of dead people on applications requesting help from the US Department of Health and Human Services through its popular Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The grave oversight helped swindlers across the state steal nearly $2 million from the federal program, far more than crooks in the same category in any other state.

At least 1,300 people in New Jersey pulled the same ghoulish gimmick, stealing nearly $500,000 from the program by claiming benefits in the name of the dead.

The federal Government Accountability Office made the discovery recently after an audit in Pennsylvania revealed a similar scam involving the Social Security numbers of dead people registered for heating grants.

The GAO investigated New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio and Illinois, which represented about one-third of the program's funding in 2009.

Investigators found a system rife with abuse and shabby oversight, with applications that included the names of prison inmates and well-heeled mansion dwellers, who could easily afford to heat their homes.

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