The hurricanes faced by Texas and the southeastern United States in the last couple of weeks brought to light once again the value that government can provide to its citizens via social media (especially Twitter).  Before the hurricanes hit land, updates from the National Hurricane Center staff and the National Weather Service were collectively re-tweeted hundreds of thousands of times, ensuring information about hurricane movements and dangers were being seen quickly.  After the hurricanes pass, people are being re-united with their family and their belongings thanks to questions that rapidly make their way across platforms like social media.

While most investigative offices are fortunate enough to not be tasked with the difficult, time-intensive job of dealing with a hurricane or its aftermath, they can still provide valuable information to the public via social media.  Here are three examples of ways that social media allows Inspectors General and other investigative offices to help the citizens they serve.

Informing Citizens of Fraud Schemes: The Department of Education’s twitter handle warned students last month to protect themselves from fraudsters trying to steal their identity and student aid money.  Preventing these types of crimes by warning citizens can save them countless hours of damage repair and thousands of dollars of lost money.

Reminding People That Crime Doesn’t Pay:  Many IG offices including the Social Security’s OIG regularly report on sentencing of criminals attempting to defraud the government of money.  As these stories are retweeted and make their way around social media, they serve as reminders to anyone who’s looking for an easy buck that the government is not the place to find it.

Keeping Pressure on Agency Management Deficits:  In July, the US State Department OIG tweeted about the State Department’s failure to track and report on foreign assistance funding.  Foreign assistance is one of the least popular government expenditures, so it’s important that when the government provides aid it is making sure it’s achieving the intended results.  Tweets like these make sure that citizens know that the government does care about getting results with tax dollars.

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