DHS Fraud Investigators
Authored By: Oregon Law Center and Legal Aid Services of Oregon
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1. WHAT DO THEY DO?
It is the welfare and food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, "SNAP") fraud investigator's job to "check it out" if the Department of Human Services (DHS) suspects you may be committing fraud or helping someone else to commit fraud. Fraud is lying to get benefits you are not entitled to. Two common ways this happens are:
- Not telling DHS that the father is in the home
- Not reporting income
An investigator will probably visit you or ask you to come into the office if you are being investigated. You do not have to talk to the investigator.
You have a right to have an attorney with you if you talk to an investigator. If you want to have an attorney represent you, call your local Legal Aid office or the Public Benefits Hotline, (800) 520-5292, for possible advice or representation. Click here for a directory of legal aid programs.
Even if you do not have an attorney, you are allowed to have someone with you when you meet with the investigator and should. The investigator will almost always try to get you to admit you are wrong or sign statements.
Do not sign anything you have not read carefully, do not agree with, or do not understand. For instance, the investigator may ask you to sign a "waiver." A waiver means that you agree with the Intentional Program Violation, the agency fraud determination, also called an "IPV") and are signing away your rights to a hearing. If you don't agree with the waiver, don't sign it.
It is an investigator's job to get information for DHS any way they can. An investigator will, in some cases, come to your home and ask to look around including through your personal belongings. You do not have to let an investigator in or let them search. You should ask for identification and a business card. An investigator may also visit your neighbors.
An investigator may try to scare you. For example, the investigator may threaten to hold up your check or have your children taken away. He may tell you to "go off welfare or food stamps voluntarily" in order to avoid "going to jail." However, if you are eligible for welfare, you have a right to keep getting benefits.
Family Services Manual Generic Programs - C. 4
REMEMBER: Anything you say to an investigator can be used against you in court if DHS decides to refer your case to the DA for criminal prosecution.
2. WHAT CAN THEY DO?
If an investigator feels you are not eligible for welfare or food stamps at this time based on information they found, they will tell DHS to cut off or reduce your benefits. If they also find you withheld information from DHS on purpose in order to get benefits, you may be charged with an IPV. They may refer your case to the District Attorney to bring criminal charges against you. You will also have an overpayment, and you will get a separate notice about that.
Intentional Program Violations
You are entitled to a hearing to challenge the "IPV." DHS will send you a notice to tell you that you have been charged with an IPV. DHS will arrange for you to have a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from Oregon's Office of Administrative Hearings. This will happen automatically. You do not have to ask for a hearing. BUT, if you sign the waiver, you will not have a hearing, and DHS will start your penalty immediately.
You can represent yourself at the hearing. If you want to have an attorney represent you, call your local Legal Aid office or the Public Benefits Hotline, (800) 520-5292, for possible advice or representation.
If the ALJ decides you committed an IPV, you will be cut off welfare or food stamps for twelve months or more. But, the other people in your family may keep getting benefits. Sometimes the investigator may turn your case over to the District Attorney and ask for criminal prosecution. If this happens, you should call your local Public Defender or the Oregon State Bar's Lawyer Referral Service at (503) 684-3763 or 1-800-452-7636.
If the investigator finds you did not report something you should have, but it was a mistake, the Overpayment Recovery Unit of DHS may try to get the overpayment back from you. They may also ask the Attorney General's Office to sue you to get back the overpayment. Before this happens, DHS will have to send you an overpayment notice to tell you how much you were overpaid, why you were overpaid, and what you can do to ask for a hearing if you don't agree.
OAR 461-175-0290; 461-175-0010; 461-175-0030; Family Services Manual Generic Programs C. 5
If you get an overpayment notice in addition to the IPV notice, you will have to request a hearing on the overpayment if you don't agree with it. To do that, you must fill out the DHS form 443 and send it to any DHS office within 45 days after you get the overpayment notice (90 days for food stamps). For more information, see the "DHS Overpayments" flyer on the Oregonlawhelp.org website. You should speak to an attorney if you get an overpayment notice and you think you may also be charged with fraud or an IPV. Remember, if you have a hearing on your overpayment, DHS may use your testimony against you in a fraud or IPV hearing.
3. HOW DO THEY FIND OUT ABOUT YOU?
- Looking through case files
- Anonymous phone calls
- Computer matches with the Employment Division, Social Security, or the IRS
- Sometimes through friends and relatives
Investigators have to check all tips and complaints they receive. They do not have to tell you who made the complaint.
Family Services Manual Generic Programs C. 4
4. IS IT LEGAL FOR THEM TO SNOOP ABOUT YOU?
Yes. Legally, they can talk to your neighbors, your landlord, and anyone else they think could help them. They can also watch your house to see who comes and goes and which cars are outside. They don't have to tell you if you're being watched.
5. WHAT CAN YOU DO?
REMEMBER:You do have rights.
- You do not have to talk to the investigator. Anything you say can be used against you."
- If as a result of an investigation you get a notice that you have an overpayment or that your benefits are going to be reduced or cut off and you disagree, ask for a hearing. You can ask for a hearing by filling out DHS Form 443 (Administrative Hearing Request.)Ask the ALJ to postpone the hearing until the fraud investigation is completed.
Seek legal advice. We can answer your questions about investigators. For more information, call the Public Benefits Hotline
(1-800-520-5292) or your local Legal Aid Services Office for possible advice or representation. Click here for a directory of legal aid programs.