Dole cheats exposed as 'snitching' up 1,000pc
THE number of reports by 'whistle-blowers' disclosing suspected social welfare and benefit fraud has increased almost tenfold in less than two years, the Irish Independent has learned.
The Department of Social Protection received 9,918 reports of suspected benefit fraud between January and the end of October, new figures reveal.
This was a dramatic rise compared to the 1,044 tip-offs recorded in the whole of 2008.
Electronic 'snitching' proved to be the most popular form of disclosure, with 5,622 anonymous reports sent via the department's website.
This was followed by 3,447 phone call tips and 849 in written letters. Additional anonymous reports were made directly to public offices.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv earlier said the tip-offs -- as well as a government clampdown on welfare cheats and errors -- were expected to generate some €323m in savings this year.
At the beginning of 2010 the department created a facility on its website to make it easier to report fake claimants.
All tip-offs are investigated.
However, the department was unable to say what percentage of reports lead directly to prosecutions or benefits being reduced or cut off.
"If reports warrant an investigation, they will take place," a spokeswoman said.
"Where there is evidence that a person has been committing benefit fraud, action will include removing a person's benefits and possibly taking them to court.
"There is an awareness by the public that defrauding social welfare is the equivalent of robbing the old, the sick and the unemployed," she added.