Continuing on with the theme of investigating fraud, this week are going to look at the murky world of the people that claim benefits that they are not entitled to.
Fraud…….It’s a huge problem that cost the UK taxpayers approximately 2 billion pounds in 2012.
In December last year the Express ran a story which reported that only 5% of the 8,700 benefit cheats identified were convicted in England and Wales were jailed in 2011-12, there were however, more than 2,500 people convicted of committing benefit fraud where they received more than ￡10,000 avoided prison sentences. It goes on to say that there needs to be a determined effort in getting these cases to court in the first place and then to increase the conviction rate.
According to the BBC in an online article that was published in November last year there is a huge discrepancy in the instances of fraud based on location. However, while you would expect some regional differences to be purely due to the fact there are less people claiming benefits in Kensington than there are in Middlesbrough for example, there has to be some consideration of how the councils that reported no fraud at all actually ran their investigations.
There are several ways that the council can investigate benefit fraud and they are set out below:
- They will check the information that you provide on the application form with data held by other departments such as the departments of Work and Pensions, Revenues and Customs and even other councils.
- On occasion they are also able to access records held by banks and credit reference agencies.
- They may make home visits.
- They often rely on the average citizen watching other people and reporting suspicious behaviour to them. This is a practice they have encouraged through not just TV advertising.
- The investigators can also request information from employers, pension providers, utility companies and telecommunication providers.
- When they are considering using surveillance, they will often outsource this work to reputable private investigators, ensuring that they work within the parameters of RIPA.(Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000). These regulations control the uses of and the procedures for carrying out directed surveillance, making use of covert human intelligence sources and intrusive surveillance techniques. It’s worth bearing in mind that local councils are not allowed to use the intrusive techniques.
What if a set procedure was set in place using these techniques and every council had to follow it? You might find that there is an increase in detection and conviction rates, which will ultimately benefit us all.
Until next time.