While many disability support providers offer legitimate services, there are people out there who want to take money from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) through illegitimate means.
- Some service providers are not what they seem and recognising the signs of fraud can help you to uncover untrustworthy providers
- Look out for charges for services that weren’t delivered, fake documents and invoices, and misleading information
If you do come across dodgy activity you can report it to the NDIS Fraud Taskforce.
Learning how to spot fraud through dodgy activity can give you the peace of mind that your providers legitimately deliver disability services.
When you report fraudulent providers, it also stops them from taking money from anyone else.
This article explains what fraud in the NDIS is and includes tips on how to spot a fraudster, as well as what to do if you do find a dodgy provider.
What is fraud?
Fraud is the act of deceiving someone for financial or personal gain. In the NDIS, this often means a person or group of people pretending to be a service provider in order to claim NDIS funds for services they haven’t actually provided.
Fraud in the NDIS can also be a person pretending to be an NDIS participant or "organisation" and making up fake participants in order to use their funds.
First and foremost, fraud has to be an intentional act as it is a criminal offence.
For example, a support provider that charges you for support coordination and claims they provided you with that service when in reality you never heard from them has committed fraud.
However, if a support worker doesn’t arrive when your support provider said they would it is not necessarily fraud, as they could have made a mistake when setting the time or rostering the worker. In this case, you should contact the provider to ask what the situation was before considering fraud as a possibility.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which runs the NDIS, has a "zero tolerance" policy on fraud, meaning they take reports of fraud seriously and will always investigate criminal behaviour.
Signs of fraud
There are lots of different ways someone can commit fraud, so that means there are lots of different ways you might notice fraudulent activity.
It is important to read through any invoices, service agreements and other documentation you receive from providers. This is regardless of whether your plan is agency managed, plan managed or self managed.
You can look for:
- Fake phone numbers, such as numbers that don’t seem realistic like 0412 345 678; numbers that don’t match the phone number you have used to call your provider previously, or numbers that don’t go through when you try to call
- Fake email addresses, for example, emails addresses that bounce back when you try to use them, or emails that have unrelated words and phrases in them that don’t match the name of the provider
- Dates that don’t match the dates you received support
- Financial figures that don’t match what you thought you would be charged, don’t match the amount that has been taken out of your plan, or that you weren’t expecting to be charged
- Charges for services that you did not agree to or ask for
- Charges for services that you did not receive
- Being charged more than once for the same service on the same date, if the amount has already come out of your plan
Keep an eye on how your NDIS plan is being spent as well, and follow up with your providers on any amounts that are taken out that you have concerns about.
You can also refer back to your service agreement with your provider to double-check what supports you should be receiving and find any gaps where you may be missing services.
Sometimes it is not the provider that is fraudulent but one of their employees, so keep this in mind if you are experiencing an inconsistent service.
If the same issue is happening every time you come in contact with a certain employee, you can discuss the issue with their manager and then decide whether to report them to the authorities or not.
There are also some activities that should ring alarm bells for you, including:
- A provider refusing to give you invoices or to draw up a service agreement with you
- A new provider contacting you that you have not asked to connect with
- Text messages or emails claiming to be from your provider and asking you to click a link to confirm anything to do with funding
- Text messages or emails claiming you owe someone a debt, for example, because you have overspent plan funds
If any of these forms of contact appear to come from a provider you do use, contact them on a phone number you have used before and ask whether they sent you a text message or email.
Do not click on any links in messages you think could be fraudulent and do not send any money to providers who send unsolicited messages. No matter how urgent the message sounds you always have time to check whether it is fraud or not.
How to stop fraud
You have ultimate choice and control over who provides you with supports.
If you are concerned about any of your providers committing fraud, you can stop receiving services from them.
It is a good idea to try to talk to the provider first, in case there has been a misunderstanding or a mistake, but if you are still concerned after having a conversation with your provider you can change service providers.
You should also report any fraudulent activity you notice to the NDIS Fraud Taskforce, which will investigate it for you and determine whether the provider needs to be followed up by the police.
You can report suspected fraud by calling the NDIS Fraud Reporting and Scams Helpline on 1800 650 717 or emailing [email protected].
If you find out your provider is not fraudulent but has provided you with services that were not of a good standard, or did not respect your rights and safety, you can report them to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission instead.
Have you found these tips helpful? Tell us in the comments below.