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Company’s Web Forum Helps Agencies Spot Fraud

LexisNexis has launched a new website focused on educating government officials on how people are defrauding federal, state and local agencies.

Concerned about fraud in your government agency? If so, a new website from research giant LexisNexis should be helpful in keeping you up-to-date on the latest fraud-related issues.

Called “Fraud of the Day,” the site features videos, news articles and reports compiled to help government personnel learn how to spot fraud and attain savings for their agencies by stopping it. Launched in November 2011, the forum also contains commentary on waste and abuse topics from experts. 

Andy Bucholz, director of tax and revenue markets for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, said the idea for an all-encompassing government fraud site was spurred by a 10-year period in which the government focused on getting better at sending payments and benefits to recipients. While efficiency in service delivery improved, he said, the fraud side of the equation went largely unnoticed.

“The government was managing on how quickly they could get the benefits and the funding out … but no one was really saying, ‘Well shoot, we really have to make sure it gets to the right person,’” Bucholz explained. “It seems really odd, but it was something where the government became very focused on one side and not the other.”

Bucholz said the site’s main goal is to educate government officials about fraud, and that it likely exists in their public-sector organizations. A common perception is that fraud is more prevalent in bigger governments — an assumption Bucholz said turns out to be false. Rural cities and counties can be popular hotbeds for criminal activity because they have limited resources and sometimes nobody assigned to keep tabs on attempted fraud.

Why develop the forum now? Bucholz said that the recession was a big driver. He recalled that four or five years ago, when money was pouring in, everyone in government was happy and he was hard-pressed to find an agency that would share a data file to look for fraud in.

But with many agencies now bleeding money, it made sense to put a forum online where officials can get an education on the types of fraud being committed across the country — particularly when many fraud tips come via email or phone from unverified sources.

“The whole idea is trying to educate struggling government agencies that want to start to look at fraud and find out where they are being frauded,” Bucholz said. “It’s sometimes that raw.”

Key Site Features

The site’s contents are refreshed Monday through Friday. At a minimum, new content will consist of a column spotlighting a recent fraud case and the issues surrounding it. Users can also sign up for a “fraud of the day” email subscription.

In addition, one of the key features of the site is a search function that will pull up specific results based on the type of fraud a government is interested in. Entering “unemployment” in the search field will return only items about that kind of fraud.

In a little more than two months, the forum has 981 subscribers and is averaging about 2,700 unique visitors per month, according to statistics provided by LexisNexis. Bucholz said the company hopes for more page views as time goes on.

Because the forum is associated with a for-profit company, Bucholz conceded that building an audience for the site might be a challenge. But he’s determined to remain focused on the educational aspect of the project.

“What we wanted to do was listen,” Bucholz said. “I’m more interested in education than selling because personally, I’d much rather stop fraud in the end. “I’d rather educate and focus more on that, and the momentum will come if we stay true to that messaging.”

Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.