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Friday 9 December 2016

21,000 tip-offs on suspect benefits cheats last year

A welfare form. Photo: Mark Condren
A welfare form. Photo: Mark Condren

MORE than 21,000 anonymous tip-offs about suspected welfare fraud were made last year.

Most were made online through a “suspected fraud” section on the Department of Social Protection’s website.

It has emerged that most reports related to people allegedly working while claiming benefits.

However, others concerned allegations that lone parents were cohabiting with partners, and that people who were living outside the jurisdiction were claiming benefits.

There has been a sea change in attitudes towards suspected cases of fraud.

Before the Celtic Tiger era, just under 1,000 tip-offs were made. The numbers peaked in 2012 at 28,000.

In spite of the high number of suspected cases, only a minority of investigations result in welfare payments being stopped or reduced.

The majority of reports do not contain sufficient information, or contain incorrect allegations.

New figures to be published shortly will show that the Department recorded “control savings” of €505m as a result of fraud over-payments.

software

This refers to future expenditure that would have been incurred were it not for fraud or error prevention.

The news comes after it was announced that 20 gardai joined the Department’s special investigations unit last year.

Officials are using facial recognition software to target people making multiple claims around the country using the new public services card.

Investigators are also targeting airports to foil claimants who are flying in and out to sign on.

About 90 detections of individuals flying in from the UK and Poland, often following tip-offs from Irish citizens, were made in the last year or so.

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