Not Just Stimulus Checks: Fraudsters Are Targeting Affordable Internet Programs


Over the past two years there have been various reports of fraud in pandemic relief programs, sometimes amounting to billions of dollars. A new government report reveals that the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a program designed to provide internet connectivity to poor people during the pandemic, is the latest such program to fall victim to fraud.

According to Light Reading, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that “approximately a dozen broadband providers have claimed funds through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) based on fraudulent signups.”

The case was detailed in a memo from the FCC’s OIG earlier this month.

“The OIG is issuing this advisory to alert consumers and providers to improper and fraudulent registration practices by some providers of Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) services. Most households are eligible for ACP assistance based on the subscriber’s own participation in a qualifying federal program such as SNAP or Medicaid. However, many other subscribers are eligible through a Beneficiary (BQP) – another household member, e.g. B. a child or dependent who meets any of the ACP eligibility requirements.”

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The Office conducted an analysis of the data and found that in some cases the claimants’ claims were fraudulent.

“OIG’s analysis of BQP PII provided by applicants during the verification and registration process clearly shows that a number of providers and their agents have enrolled many households in the ACP based on an individual BQP’s eligibility. A single BQP cannot be used to qualify multiple households for AKP support at the same time.”

The OIG found a particularly horrifying example in Oklahoma.

“In the most egregious example identified, more than a thousand Oklahoma households were enrolled based on the eligibility of a single BQP, a 4-year-old child receiving Medicaid benefits,” the report said. “The child’s first and last name, date of birth and L4SSN were used repeatedly – often multiple times a day – to complete new ACP enrollment transactions beginning in December 2021.”

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The report did not mention the specific ISP.

“Fraud, waste and abuse remain a serious problem for the Commission’s programmes. Committed to our mission, OIG will continue to use a wide range of tools to detect and address fraud, waste and abuse in FCC programs. The OIG encourages anyone with information regarding fraud, waste or abuse in an FCC program to report such allegations through the OIG hotline,” the OIG said.

Meanwhile, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) announced new measures to prevent such fraud.

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“In this public announcement, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces that it is implementing additional measures to strengthen program integrity related to the enrollment of households in the Affordable Connectivity Program on an Eligible Person basis. These measures are consistent with the Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program rules and are necessary to prevent waste, fraud and abuse,” WCB said.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic who also writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage Magazine, Broad Street, Review, and splice today. Stephen, co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters



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