34 Welfare Fraud Statistics By Country [Statistics For 2024]

Updated On: 09/04/2023
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Are you aware of just how prevalent welfare fraud is? We often get caught up in our daily lives, blissfully unaware of the staggering statistics surrounding this issue.

We've culled the most serious and thought-provoking numbers to give you a clear snapshot.

In this piece, we'll light on 34 welfare fraud statistics, opening the lid on a difficult conversation about integrity, societal responsibility, and financial justice.

Knowing these facts will help you understand the magnitude of this problem better. We often believe that things happening behind closed governmental doors do not concern us directly.

But it impacts us all – inflating our taxes and taking away funds from those who genuinely need and deserve assistance. Let's navigate these figures together and comprehend their implications on our lives.

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20 Welfare Fraud Statistics

20 Welfare Fraud Statistics

The following statistics have been carefully compiled to comprehensively understand welfare fraud and its different forms across the United States.

By delving into these statistics, we can form a more informed opinion on the prevalence and cost of welfare fraud.

Less than 1.5% of welfare recipients are estimated to commit fraud.

Surprisingly, only a small fraction of those who receive government benefits are estimated to be fraudulent. It's less than 1.5%, to be exact.

An individual participating in this kind of fraud might misrepresent their income level, living situation, or other key factors determining welfare benefits eligibility.

This false information can lead to illegitimately inflated benefits checks from programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Despite the low percentage, these instances still create substantial losses over time.

Welfare fraud costs taxpayers approximately $1.5 billion annually.

It might surprise some readers that while fewer than 1.5% of welfare recipients are estimated to commit fraud, the resulting cost is staggering—nearly $1.5 billion per year in taxpayer dollars.

This figure isn't based on individual cases but includes calculations associated with retailers and businesses involved in deceitful practices.

For example, some retailers may illegally trade cash for SNAP benefits or even submit false claims under the pretense of usage of benefits, leading to higher costs overall.

While comprehensive actions are being taken by federal agencies and states alike to detect, prosecute, and prevent welfare fraud—such as increased surveillance systems and stricter eligibility requirements—it remains an ongoing issue that impacts public budgets annually.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) overpayment rates were around 1.6%.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, designed to assist those most in need, faces its hurdles with program integrity.

It was discovered that overpayment rates for TANF were measured at around 1.6% - a relatively low figure, yet it still represents a significant sum in the overall budget.

The reasons behind these overpayments vary; they might be due to administrative errors or, less frequently, associated with fraud, where recipients manipulate information knowingly to gain extra benefits.

Key strategies to mitigate these overpayments include enhancing administrative processes and periodic auditing.

Overpayment rates for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were about 3.7%.

When considering the SNAP program, it's essential to mention that its overpayment rates have been reported as high as 3.7%.

This relatively high percentage might be due to several factors, including miscommunication, unintentional mistakes on the part of recipients, or deliberate attempts at fraud.

The consequences of slipping through the quality control net can result in significant burdens on the public fund and unjustly impact honest recipients who depend on this assistance. Therefore, minimizing this rate should remain a top priority.

Also Read: 34 Important Welfare Statistics For 2024

In 2020, approximately 3,394 individuals were disqualified from the SNAP program due to intentional violations.

In discussing fraud within welfare programs, mentioning accountability and enforcement aspects is crucial.

In line with this, approximately 3,394 individuals in 2020 were disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits because they intentionally violated rules and regulations governing them — illustrating that actions have consequences when rules are broken deliberately.

Enforcement measures such as disqualification send a strong message against violations while assuring taxpayers that their money is safeguarded against misuse.

The aim is not only to punish but also to deter potential fraudulent behaviors and thus protect the integrity of these vital public programs.

From 2016-2020, $543 million in SNAP benefits were recovered due to fraud investigations.

In five years, from 2016 to 2020, a staggering $543 million in SNAP benefits were recovered due to rigorous fraud investigations.

These recoveries underscore the extensive reach of welfare fraud and highlight the fervent efforts made by governing bodies to curb these illegal activities. This figure is significant, showcasing the value of vigilance and accountability in public programs.

Also, it's an encouraging sign that monitoring systems are working efficiently to detect fraudulent activities.

Over 50% of welfare fraud is committed by retailers rather than recipients.

In contrast to popular belief, welfare fraud isn't predominantly committed by those receiving benefits but rather by retailers involved in the process.

In fact, over 50% of such fraudulent activities are perpetrated by businesses trading SNAP and other public assistance benefits illegally.

This creates a complex problem for federal agencies responsible for dispensing public assistance as they must fight against fraudulent behavior at an individual level and within established business entities.

In 2019, over 2,500 retailers were permanently disqualified for trafficking SNAP benefits.

To combat retailer-perpetrated welfare fraud effectively, stringent punitive measures are undertaken against those found guilty.

Reflecting on this approach's efficacy, back in 2019 alone, more than 2,500 retailers involved in these illegal practices were permanently disqualified from participating in benefit-related programs like SNAP after being discovered during the thorough investigation.

This figure indicates that traction is gaining on this crucial front—illegal traffickers are held accountable by demonstrating zero tolerance towards such dishonest deeds in public service delivery.

States with the highest rates of welfare fraud include Florida, Michigan, and California.

Certain states in the United States consistently emerge with high reported welfare fraud statistics rates. The trio leading this dubious list are Florida, Michigan, and California.

It's important to note that multiple factors contribute to these elevated levels of fraud - population density, socio-economic conditions, and varying levels of regulation across states.

High rates do not necessarily indicate lax regulatory environments; they often reveal aggressive methods for identifying and cutting out fraudulent activities.

Better detection can often bring light to the dark underbelly of benefit scams, giving these states a higher visibility in fraudulent cases.

In 2020, an estimated $30 million of unemployment benefits were recovered from fraud investigations.

Investigations into fraudulent applications don't just serve punitive purposes but also have a vital financial impact. In 2020 alone, an impressive sum – around $30 million – was reclaimed through rigorous efforts to vet unemployment claims for validity.

These recoveries underline the importance of continuously investing in anti-fraud measures like comprehensive vetting systems and routine audits, ensuring public funds are appropriately allocated and recovered when misused.

Approximately 40% of welfare fraud involves falsifying or withholding information on the application.

Regarding methods employed by perpetrators of welfare fraud, approximately 40% involve deceitful practices at the application stage.

Falsifying or intentionally withholding pertinent information allows them to qualify for benefits they otherwise wouldn't be eligible for or receive greater funds than due.

Information typically misrepresented includes earned income levels, household composition, or employment status – all crucial elements determining eligibility for certain benefit types.

This subversive tactic erodes the efficiency and effectiveness of welfare programs that aid America's most vulnerable communities.

20-25% of welfare fraud is committed by friends or family members of the recipient.

The harsh reality is that even trust isn't exempt from manipulation regarding welfare fraud. An alarming 20-25% of all welfare fraud cases involve friends or family members misusing a recipient's benefits.

This can occur whenever a trusted individual knowingly uses their loved one's EBT card without consent, applies for benefits on their behalf and pockets the money, or helps them lie on application forms.

This exploitation cuts into crucial resources for those in need and damages once-close relationships.

The average amount of fraud committed by an individual recipient is estimated to be around $1,100.

Examining the scale at which welfare fraud occurs can be startling. Research indicates that the average stolen sum equals around $1,100 per individual.

While this may not seem astronomical compared to other forms of white-collar crime, these ill-gotten gains significantly cut into potential funding for programs that provide vital financial support to vulnerable populations across America.

Combined circumstances invariably raise critical concerns regarding the current systems to detect and deter fraudulent activity.

About 70% of welfare fraud instances involve under-reporting of income.

The most common form of welfare fraud lies within income declaration: approximately 70% of all instances relate directly to under-reported earnings, highlighting significant cracks within verification processes.

Individuals or families may present fabricated pay stubs or fail to report certain income streams, leading to overcompensation in benefits they're not entirely qualified for.

This pervasive issue underscores the importance and urgency for improved transparency, rigorous auditing measures, and streamlined reporting systems within welfare departments across all states.

States spend on average 0.1% of their welfare budget on anti-fraud activities.

On average, only 0.1% of a state's total welfare budget funds anti-fraud activities. Albeit appearing small, this backing supports essential programs targeted at fraud detection and prevention in a state’s welfare system.

These investments fund resources such as data tracking and auditing systems to monitor anomalous activity, predictive analytics tools to anticipate potential fraud activities, and invest in teams dedicated to investigation and enforcement - all vital in maintaining the integrity of the welfare system.

More than 10% of welfare fraud cases involve collaboration between recipients and welfare agency staff.

A startling fact is that over 10% of all welfare fraudulent cases involve cooperation between the recipients and welfare agency staff members.

These insiders can manipulate the system by altering recipient data or creating fictitious beneficiaries for personal gain.

Addressing this issue involves harsher penalties for perpetrators and investing in better staff training, stricter hiring practices, and more stringent internal controls within the agencies themselves.

Over 1.5 million SNAP recipients were found to have received benefits in two states simultaneously, leading to an estimated $1.4 billion in overpayments in one year.

Duplication fraud contributes significantly to SNAP losses, with over 1.5 million recipients getting benefits from two states simultaneously, resulting in an approximated $1.4 billion in overpaid benefits annually.

This type of "double-dipping" fraud occurs when individuals apply for and receive benefits from multiple states while concealing this information from administrators, thus exceeding their legal benefit allotment.

Detection requires coordination across state lines - a hurdle that must be overcome to rein in rampant abuse.

From 2016-2020, welfare fraud detection and prevention efforts saved U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1.8 billion.

Efforts to combat welfare fraud substantively impact taxpayer savings. Between 2016 and 2020, advancements in detection methods and prevention efforts resulted in an estimated savings of $1.8 billion for U.S. taxpayers.

This tangible result came from collaboration between multiple federal agencies and states working together to implement stricter measures to detect irregularities sooner and take necessary legal actions against perpetrators.

The average time to detect welfare fraud is approximately 3-4 years from when the fraud commenced.

Sadly, detecting welfare fraud isn't always a swift process. On average, it takes approximately 3-4 years from the commencement of the fraudulent activity for it to be discovered.

The delay can be attributed to many factors, such as administrative hurdles, screening challenges, and limitations in tracking systems.

This delayed detection results in significant financial losses that could otherwise support needy individuals.

States with stricter welfare eligibility requirements and surveillance systems tend to have lower rates of welfare fraud.

Though welfare system abuse is a nationwide problem, evidence suggests that states with stricter eligibility requirements experience lower rates of welfare fraud.

States adopting innovative surveillance systems like advanced predictive analytics tools have experienced substantial reductions in fraudulent cases - an estimated decrease of 10-15%.

These tools analyze patterns in data to predict potential fraud cases; the speed at which these instances are detected increases substantially - leading to considerable reductions in overall cases.

Also Read: 25 Foreclosure Statistics For 2024 [The Figures of Crisis?]

14 Welfare Fraud Statistics By Country

14 Welfare Fraud Statistics By Country

Welfare fraud is not limited to U.S. borders; the issue is prevalent all across the globe, although to varying extents. Look at how fraud affects some of the world’s major countries.

In the United Kingdom, benefit fraud accounted for 1.2% of total benefit spending in 2020.

The United Kingdom has its share of welfare fraud as well. In 2020, fraudulent activities accounted for 1.2% of total benefit spending.

As per the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), overpayments due to fraud stood at around £2.2 billion, equivalent to about $3 billion.

It's important to note that they also reported underpayments due to error, amounting to roughly £1.9 billion or $2.5 billion in comparison, showing not all discrepancies caused by inaccuracies are intentionally fraudulent.

UK's DWP has an aggressive approach towards welfare fraud detection and prosecution, with dedicated Fraud and Error Service helping recover millions from offenders annually.

In Canada, welfare fraud is estimated to be less than 1.5% of total welfare spending.

Canada records less welfare fraud than other countries as it only accounts for approximately less than 1.5% of total spending on entitlement programs for low-income households in Canada.

According to Canada's Integrated Bankruptcy Enforcement Unit, instances of welfare and social insurance schemes misrepresentations like unreported income or undelivered services lead to this figure.

Canada's meticulous benefits distribution system requires routinely updated information by recipients, which helps comprehensive audits catch fraudulent behavior more promptly.

In Australia, welfare fraud constituted about 0.7% of total welfare payments in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Moving Down Under, Australia has a comparatively lower rate where welfare fraud made about 0.7% of total payments during the fiscal year '19-20.

According to a Department of Social Services report, individual recipients and service providers engaged in deceit caused superficial imbalances in benefits distributions, resulting in AUD 49 million (USD 36 million) losses during that period.

As part of Australia’s robust countermeasures against such attempts, ID verification through the 'myGovID' digital service is initiated, ensuring rightful beneficiaries apply for public grants.

A 2014 report by the US Government Accountability Office found that improper payments, including fraud and administrative errors, accounted for 1.5% of unemployment insurance payments.

While the general rate of welfare fraud remains low in the US, a disparity lies within one specific area: unemployment insurance payments.

According to a 2014 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), out-of-place costs, which could be due to fraudulent actions or administrative errors, accounted for approximately 1.5% of unemployment insurance payments.

This cumulative percentage might seem small on paper; however, it transforms into millions of dollars when applied to vast sums dispersed nationwide.

In a 2018 report, the European Court of Auditors estimated that fraud in the EU's structural and investment funds was less than 0.2%.

The European Court of Auditors' report from 2018 revealed an interesting comparison when juxtaposed with statistics from North America: Fraud affects an impressive low range of less than 0.2% of the EU's structural and investment funds.

Contrasting this data with numbers from the US highlights significant differences, demonstrating how varied welfare systems and their corresponding fraudulence rates can be around the globe.

A 2017 Auditor General of Ontario report found that fraud accounted for less than 0.1% of social assistance cases in the province.

Shifting gears back towards North America, let's explore Canada’s stats on welfare abuse. A detailed analysis by Ontario’s Auditor General published in 2017 revealed that instances of deliberate misinformation or manipulation categorized as fraud could only be traced in less than 0.1% of social assistance cases province-wide.

Only about 1.5% of welfare applications in California contained intentional misrepresentations in 2018.

California, a welfare-generous state, evidenced something quite eye-opening in 2018. It was found that only about 1.5% of the welfare applications submitted contained intentional misrepresentations. Intentional misrepresentation’ typically refers to knowingly providing false information or deliberately concealing facts that would otherwise affect eligibility for benefits.

Despite the prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding discussions about the prevalence of welfare fraud, this low figure indicates that such fraudulent activity is not nearly as rampant as some might expect in California.

A 2015 report by the UK's Department for Work and Pensions estimated that overpayments due to fraud and error represented 1.8% of total benefit expenditure.

Across the Atlantic, we can spot similar trends regarding welfare fraud statistics. A report released by the UK's Department for Work and Pensions 2015 unveiled an intriguing fact – about 1.8% of total benefit expenditure was accounted for by overpayments due to fraud and error.

This indicates how deliberate fraudulent acts and unintentional administrative errors can significantly contribute to unnecessary public expenditure in the social benefits sectors.

In 2019, the Netherlands estimated that welfare fraud accounted for approximately 1.1% of total welfare spending.

Continuing our global exploration, let's turn our attention towards The Netherlands - a country with one of the world’s most extensive social security systems.

In 2019, it was estimated that approximately just 1.1% of total welfare spending was attributed to fraudulent activity – a signal towards an effective and well-tuned approach against deceitful undermining of their social support framework.

A 2020 study found that the estimated rate of welfare fraud in New Zealand was around 0.6%.

Although welfare fraud is a pervasive issue globally, some countries fare better than others. According to a comprehensive 2020 study in New Zealand, the estimated rate of welfare fraud was around 0.6%.

The government's rigorous controls and punishment measures likely contribute to this relatively low figure.

The Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand also proactively educates citizens about welfare integrity and encourages them to report suspected fraud.

According to a 2017 report by the French Court of Auditors, fraud represented less than 1% of social security spending in France.

Per the French Court of Auditors' report in France in 2017, less than 1% of its social security spending was due to fraudulent activity.

His low rate can be attributed mainly to active control measures employed by the French authorities that focus on detecting and preventing fraud across all layers of its welfare system - from approval authorities to beneficiaries.

A 2019 Swedish National Audit Office report estimated that fraud accounted for about 1.3% of total welfare spending in Sweden.

Sweden faces slightly higher welfare fraud rates than its European counterparts like France. According to the Swedish National Audit Office's report published in 2019, approximately 1.3% of total welfare spending was linked with fraudulent activities.

But let’s not dispraise Sweden immediately without considering their comprehensive care system, which extends beyond just providing minimum living standards and ensures all residents enjoy a substantial quality of life.

Although it has higher costs overall, it maintains its integrity with vigilant monitoring systems, keeping fraudulent behavior towards the lower end internationally.

According to a 2018 report by the Irish Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, fraud accounted for approximately 1% of total welfare spending in Ireland.

The statistics reported by the Irish Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection revealed that welfare fraud accounted for approximately 1% of Ireland's total welfare spending in 2018.

Despite several precautionary measures to prevent such abuse, fraudsters find loopholes and succeed at swindling substantial funds from state coffers.

Notwithstanding a small percentage, considering its societal implications, the amount emanates considerable concern.

A 2019 report by the German Federal Court of Auditors estimated that fraud accounted for approximately 1.5% of total social benefits spending in Germany.

Despite strict protocols enforced by German authorities to curb fraudulent activities related to welfare provisions, the Federal Court of Auditors found that in 2019 around 1.5% of total social benefit expenditure was lost to fraudulent activities.

The proportion is significantly higher than in some European countries like Ireland, indicating that there is still much work towards effective control and regulation mechanisms.

Please remain cognizant - while these percentages may appear insignificant at first glance, they conceal substantial amounts when considered fractions of the total social welfare budget, which typically runs into billions.

FAQs About welfare fraud statistics

What percentage of welfare recipients are estimated to be involved in fraud?

Less than 1.5% of welfare recipients are estimated to engage in fraud.

How much does welfare fraud cost US taxpayers each year?

It's estimated that welfare fraud costs American taxpayers around $1.5 billion annually.

What states have the highest reported rates of welfare fraud?

The states with the highest reported rates of welfare fraud are Florida, Michigan, and California.

What forms does most welfare fraud take?

Most often, welfare fraud involves under-reporting income (around 70% of cases), but it also involves falsifying or withholding information on applications and collaboration with agency staff.

How effective are measures against welfare fraud?

From 2016-2020, detection and prevention efforts have saved U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1.8 billion, showing a substantial effect against instances of fraud.


Understanding the statistics behind welfare fraud helps shed light on the intricacies and dimensions of this societal issue.

It's crucial to remember that although fraud instances represent a minority, they still negatively affect public funds, taxpayers, and those in genuine need of assistance.

As responsible citizens, understanding and staying vigilant about such issues is vital in combating fraud.

These stats underline the need for continued efforts to tighten control mechanisms, improve detection rates, and ensure that benefits go to those who truly need them.

Michael Restiano

I support product content strategy for Salt Money. Additionally, I’m helping develop content strategy and processes to deliver quality work for our readers.

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