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May 09, 2023 | North Carolina Whistleblower

Is a Whistleblowers Hotline the Right Way for You to Report Fraud Against the Government?

Whistleblowers perform an important service for the public when they report evidence of fraud against the government. Many federal and state governmental organizations have whistleblower programs to facilitate the reporting process, and a key component of these programs is often a whistleblower hotline.

red phones hang, representing the governmental organizations' whistleblower reporting processes

While many corporations also have internal company compliance hotlines, I will focus on government hotlines in this article because I believe you need the guidance of an experienced whistleblower lawyer to report suspected fraud against the government – even when reporting via one of these hotlines.

Whistleblower hotlines provide a method for individuals to report unlawful or unethical behavior involving misconduct, waste, and fraud against the government. In many cases, whistleblowers can report their observations on these government whistleblower hotlines. Unfortunately, as a whistleblower attorney, I’ve seen many examples of people trying to do the right thing by reporting fraud to an internal or government hotline, only to be ignored.

Worse still, if your report is insufficient, improperly reported, or overlooked, the fraud may continue and you may miss out on getting an award.

Some government hotlines actually only apply if you don’t want an award. An attorney can help you understand what processes the government has in place to report fraud and what your best course of action is.

In this article, I will describe the types of whistleblowers hotlines government whistleblower programs have created for people to report fraud. I will also explore several of the major government whistleblower hotlines (there’s a lot of them, and there’s often confusion as to which government whistleblower hotline is the right one to call), as well as outline the steps I advise people to take before reporting government fraud.

Bottom Line: While using a government whistleblower hotline may ultimately be the right decision for you, I will walk you through the factors you should consider prior to calling a hotline. To speak with a team member of Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys confidentially on how to proceed in your specific situation, call 1-888-292-8852, and get a no cost case evaluation.

Types of whistleblower hotlines: A timeline

telephone-based reporting systemsInitially, whistleblower hotlines were telephone-based reporting systems, which allowed a limited amount of anonymity as the information could not be encrypted when transmitted from the whistleblower to the receiver of the message.

Whistleblower hotlines often incorporate email inboxesNext, many whistleblower hotlines began to incorporate a whistleblower e-mail address and inbox which allowed whistleblowers to attach files as evidence. However, since e-mails cannot be fully encrypted, data was still insecure.

Whistleblower hotline systems are often encryptedNow, most government whistleblower hotline systems either are encrypted, have an online component or are fully internet-based, and allow whistleblowers to attach files anonymously.

The reporting of suspected fraud is generally initiated via an electronic form submission to the whistleblower program’s website. The actual “hotline” tends to be the whistleblower program’s phone number, and it is primarily used to receive and answer questions.

Whistleblower hotlines by fraud type

The government has many different departments, administrations, and offices, and it can be overwhelming to determine exactly where to report suspected foul play. Talk to an attorney with whistleblower experience to help you chart your path forward.

The following government entities have whistleblower hotlines for reporting evidence of possible wrongdoing.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hotline

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has created a website for reporting information about healthcare fraud, waste, or abuse. This website outlines various reporting methods for:

  • the general public and providers
  • providers
  • people with Medicare
  • parents or guardians of children with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Hotline

If you have discovered information about tax fraud by individual or businesses, the Internal Revenue Service has established a webpage with information about how to report it. This page also includes information about reporting identity theft, abusive tax promotions or avoidance schemes, and improper tax return preparation operations.

Contacting a government whistleblower hotline to report fraud against the government may not be your best option.

Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) Whistleblower Hotline

The whistleblower program established by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allows individuals to come forward and report possible violations of the federal securities laws to the SEC. The Office of the Whistleblower was established to administer the SEC’s whistleblower program, and it created an Office of the Whistleblower hotline to respond to questions about the program.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Whistleblower Hotline

The CFTC’s Whistleblower Program allows individuals to voluntarily report possible violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), such as virtual currency fraud and insider trading, through an online portal. These reports can lead to a successful enforcement action resulting in heavy monetary sanctions.

Individuals call the specific CFTC Whistleblower Hotline primarily regarding questions about program specifics, not to report suspected fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Whistleblower Program

OSHA’s whistleblower program allows people to submit whistleblower suspicions about workplace safety, such as exposure to infectious agents or toxic chemicals. OSHA has a hotline phone number for whistleblowers to call, but OSHA whistleblowers cannot remain anonymous.

What to do if you suspect fraud against the government

Some people may think the first step to take should be to call a whistleblower hotline. However, this could be the wrong step for you.

What if you don’t use the right wording and your claim never gets any attention and you miss out on a possible reward? What if you report to the wrong agency? What if you use a hotline that doesn’t allow for potential whistleblower awards? What if you implicate yourself in the misconduct that you are reporting?

Because of these and many other concerns, I recommend speaking to a whistleblower attorney before doing anything else. You can contact Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys now to get a free, confidential case evaluation.

If you suspect fraud against the government, act quickly, don't talk to anyone about your suspicions, discreetly gather proof, don't quit your job & speak with an

Learn More: Thinking of blowing the whistle on fraud against the government? 6 Don’ts and 1 Critical Do

Report your whistleblower suspicions in the best way for you

Before reporting directly to a whistleblower hotline, you should seek knowledgeable, objective insight into your specific situation. Every government whistleblower program is unique, and a whistleblower attorney can help you determine:

  • which agency you should report to
  • what reporting methods are available
  • what risks may be involved with the various reporting methods

You may decide that you would rather have an attorney report the fraud by filing a formal whistleblower lawsuit or complaint.

Contact Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys before calling a whistleblower hotline

At Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys, you can confidentially discuss your suspicions of fraud against the government with a recognized professional who understands whistleblower laws and knows how to work with the government on these cases.

If we believe you may have a claim, we’ll tell you whether we believe it would be in your best interest to move forward with a call to a whistleblower hotline or if your evidence is strong enough to file a claim under the FCA and pursue a whistleblower reward. Either way, we can advise you on your next steps.

Learn More: Why You Should Hire a Whistleblower Attorney

Our team is led by former White House-appointed attorney Bill Nettles. During his tenure as U.S. Attorney, Bill’s office brought the state of South Carolina up to top four in the country for whistleblower recoveries, recovering over $307 million in fraudulently obtained taxpayer funds1,4

Our attorneys have won many awards and have the skill, knowledge, and resources to guide you through a complex and sensitive process. And we always put our clients first. Take control of your whistleblower case, and give us a call today at 1-888-292-8852 for a free and confidential case evaluation. Or you can contact us online.

Bill Nettles headshot national association of former united states attorneys

Our attorneys have won many awards and have the skill, knowledge, and resources to guide you through a complex and sensitive process. And we always put our clients first. Take control of your whistleblower case, and give us a call today at 1-888-292-8852 for a free and confidential case evaluation. Or you can contact us online.


Frequently asked questions about whistleblower hotlines

Can a whistleblower remain anonymous on a whistleblower hotline?

It depends. You can submit your suspicions anonymously on many government whistleblower hotlines. However, if you wish to be eligible for a whistleblower award, you usually have to provide your contact information or be represented by and provide contact information for an attorney.

Note: Each whistleblower program has its own rules and regulations. OSHA, for example, will not allow you to file a whistleblower complaint anonymously.

Are there whistleblower protections to protect whistleblowers who use whistleblower hotlines?

Many government whistleblower programs have regulations providing whistleblower protection to try to protect whistleblowers from employer retaliation. An attorney has additional means for protecting you and can help you understand whistleblower protection laws and navigate the rules and conditions surrounding these programs.

What is a protected disclosure in whistleblowing?

A protected disclosure is anything a whistleblower reports that they reasonably believe is evidence of a violation of any law, regulation, or rule, as well as gross mismanagement or waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. Whistleblowing is also sometimes called “making a protected disclosure.”


You may also be interested in

How to Choose the Best Whistleblower Lawyer for You: Questions to Ask

7 Signs That You May Have a Whistleblower Claim

How the False Claims Act Empowers Citizens to Fight Fraud

What Are the Potential Rewards of a Whistleblower Lawsuit?

About the Author

John Warren knows how to help whistleblowers fight for what’s right. He has clerked in state and two levels of federal court, is an adjunct law professor, and has spent his private practice career working alongside White House appointed U.S. Attorneys. He knows how to work with the government on whistleblower cases, and he’s got a formidable track record of experience and significant recoveries.1

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Whistleblower Attorneys

If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to speak with a whistleblower lawyer about what you know, let us set the record straight.

  • Corporate ethics hotlines can be risky and may lead to termination. If you’ve already done this, call us immediately.
  • Your coworkers could be aware of the fraud – or complicit in it – and you should not talk to them about it.
  • The first claim to be filed under the False Claims Act can proceed – if you’re not first, you’re at a serious disadvantage and may get nothing (another reason not to speak to your coworkers about it).
  • A confidential discussion costs you a few minutes, but could save you time, stress, and money.


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