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Saturday 10 December 2016

Website doubles reporting of welfare fraudsters

Shane Hickey

Published 27/12/2010 | 05:00

THE number of people who have been reported for welfare fraud has almost doubled after an internet whistleblower system was introduced.

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Welfare cheats have been turned in to the Department of Social Protection in their thousands over the last year.

New figures show more than 11,500 reports of fraudulent activity have been received by the department up to the end of last month -- almost twice the number of last year.

The statistic is a clear indication of the frustration held by many people at false claims on the welfare system, especially as the recession deepens.

Anonymous reports via phone, email and letter have rocketed in recent years after just 604 were given to the department in 2007.

The jump this year comes after the introduction of the internet reporting system.

"From the beginning of this year, we have had an online facility so that would have helped.

"Not everybody would have picked up the phone or written a letter so maybe people found it easier to use this facility," a spokesman for the Department of Social Protection said.

In total, 6,655 reports were made via the internet, 3,960 by phone and 960 complaints came in by letter.

The final number of complaints made is likely to be far bigger as people also call directly to public offices.

However, it is not known how many of these reports are true as exact records are not kept when they are found to be false or incorrect.

Exact records are also not maintained as to how much money these claims save the state.

However, the spokesman said the funds formed part of the €417m savings recorded so far over 2010.

Up to the end of November, some 636,000 reviews of welfare claims were carried out by the Department of Social Protection.



Curbs

Curbs to fraud include the fact that new jobseekers' payment claimants have to attend post offices in person.

Mailshots are also used to validate residency and inspectors are calling to homes.

Social welfare staff have also been seconded to the Garda's Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda National Immigration Bureau in order to target funds accumulated by criminals.

The €417m savings by the end of November is still short of the target for the year, which stands at €533m.

Some of the shortfall has been blamed on work-to-rule measures taken by the unions earlier in the year, which resulted in some reviews not being reported.

Irish Independent

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