Public assistance fraud program may expand to more Piedmont counties

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Public assistance fraud happens every day in the Piedmont.

In Rockingham County, Department of Social Services (DSS) workers are trying to get ahead of the problem. In February 2012, it started a Fraud Investigations Unit to track down people committing public assistance fraud and challenge them in court.

"If they think that they're going to be taken to court and could receive a felony charge, that deters some people from committing that act," said fraud investigator Wendy Yates.

Tuesday night, Yates and Rockingham County DSS Director Debbie McGuire will present the successes of their programs to county leaders from across the Piedmont. McGuire said, from that presentation, other counties may decide to start similar programs.

Since the program started in Rockingham County, DSS workers said they have reclaimed nearly half a million dollars taken by people who weren't rightfully entitled to them.

Yates said she gets an anonymous phone call almost every day reporting suspected fraud.

"There are so many people that actually do need the help," Yates said. "It's just not fair for someone to come in and they're making $50,000 a year but yet they're coming in and they're lying and getting food stamp assistance. It’s just not right."

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