In late 2011, the state Department of Health Services created a hotline (877-865-3432) for citizens to report public assistance fraud. In March 2012, it opened a web portal (www.reportfraud.wisconsin.gov) for such reports.
“One of our main priorities is to make sure we are providing essential safety net benefits … while ensuring Wisconsin’s valuable taxpayer dollars are being spent in the most efficient, effective way possible,” states the DHS website. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to report suspected fraud.”
The two portals together generate about 300 tips a month, said DHS spokeswoman Claire Yunker. The department, in response to a records request, released the complaints it received for a single month, August 2014, with the names of individuals redacted. They log 104 hotline calls and 167 web reports regarding FoodShare and other forms of assistance. Some examples:
“Ms. (name redacted) does not live at the address where her food stamps and benefits are sent. She lives with her boyfriend…”
“(Name redacted) has tried to sell his food stamp card to me multiple times.”
“This individual is working and should be ineligible based on how well her job pays.”
The records do not show what follow-up action was taken. According to Yunker, “We don’t currently have the ability to track how many complaints from our hotline and/or portal lead to sanctions or savings. However, we are currently working on a systems redesign that will allow us to track this information.”
Some contacts report problems other than alleged fraud. One woman called to say her FoodShare card was stolen, along with her wallet, and benefits used. “She wants to know if she can get some emergency funds replaced on the card,” the log entry states. “The complaint coordinator advised her that once benefits are gone, they’re gone. She asked what she could do to feed her child. Advised her to look to area food pantries.”