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Countywide : Supervisors Revisit Anti-Fraud System

A new anti-fraud system that would use fingerprinting to discourage welfare “double-dippers” is again being reviewed by county officials, who said the high-tech safeguard could be in place within six months.

Sixteen months after the Board of Supervisors approved the system in concept, the panel will revisit the issue Tuesday when they consider a more detailed version of the $1.37-million plan.

By weeding out false claims among the more than 3,000 people who receive General Relief welfare payments each month in Orange County, the computerized system would save enough money to pay for itself in its first year of operation, county officials said. Within five years, the system will likely have saved more than $104,000 in losses.

“Even if a system like this would break even, cost-wise, it would be a worthwhile project from a public policy standpoint,” said Bob Griffith, chief deputy director of county social services. “It demonstrates to the public that we are safeguarding their money from cheats and scoundrels.”

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The system is intended to reduce bogus claims for General Relief, a “last-resort” program that assists mostly unmarried adults without children. Recipients get about $300 a month in payments from the program.

Once set up, the process would only add a few minutes to the visit of first-time recipients, Griffith said. Recipients would be asked to put their index finger on a glass pane above a electronic eye. The image of the print is scanned and logged by the computer, which in a matter of seconds can compare it the thousands of prints stored in a database.

Fingerprinting stations would be set up in the county’s Anaheim and Santa Ana offices. Griffith said the Orange County system will “piggyback” the identical, established system in Los Angeles, saving Orange County the cost of some setup.

The Los Angeles connection will also allow the two neighboring counties to dip into the same database of fingerprints. Employees in offices in either county will be able to detect “repeat customers” who travel over the county line in an attempt to scam money from the social program.

In Los Angeles County, the use of the fingerprinting system has saved the welfare program more than $12 million and has been considered “extremely successful” since installation in 1992, said Lisa Nunez, a Los Angeles County computer services chief. The Los Angeles General Relief program assists more than 100,000 people from 14 offices.


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