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Department gets 60 tip-offs a day about benefit 'scammers'

Joan Burton

SIXTY cases a day of suspected social welfare fraud have been reported since the beginning of the year, new figures have identified.

The Department of Social Protection is continuing to receive an unprecedented level of anonymous tip-offs from members of the public.

Figures released show that 16,359 reports of suspected welfare fraud were lodged with the department's control division between January and October.

Social welfare inspectors consider each report before carrying out a review of an individual's entitlements if there are grounds to do so.

The details supplied by Tanaiste Joan Burton's department show that more than 86,000 reports have been received from members of the public since 2011.

It is expected that the overall number of suspected fraud reports will rise above the 100,000 mark by early next year.

Welfare officials investigating suspected cheats pay particular attention to schemes deemed most likely to be abused.

Significant attention is also paid to sectors where casual work is most prevalent and therefore more likely to involve people working and illegally claiming benefits to which they are not entitled.

airports

Along with investigating anonymous reports, the department targets airports and seaports in a bid to identify people resident outside the country but returning to illegally claim welfare.

The department said in a statement that not all reports of suspected fraud turn out to be accurate.

"All anonymous or confidential reports are examined and, where relevant, are referred to scheme areas or inspectors for follow-up action," it said.

"A payment is not suspended or stopped on the basis of an anonymous report, but the report may trigger a review of a customer's entitlement.

"It should be borne in mind that while there is often a perception of fraud, when a case is examined the individual may be doing something that is allowed under the rules of the particular payment that they are receiving.

"For example, working and receiving a One Parent Family Payment, provided earnings are within the limits and the department is aware of the situation, is legitimate."

hnews@herald.ie


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