ALMOST 60 people have reported a suspected case of social welfare fraud every day this year, the Irish Independent has learned.
The Department of Social Protection is continuing to receive an unprecedented level of tip-offs from the public.
Figures show that 16,359 reports of suspected welfare fraud were lodged with the department's control division between January and October this year. Social welfare inspectors consider each report before carrying out a 'review' into individuals' entitlements if there are grounds to do so.
The details supplied by Joan Burton's department show that over 86,000 reports have been received from the public since 2011. It is expected that the overall number of suspected fraud reports will rise above 100,000 by early next year.
Welfare officials investigating suspected fraud pay particular attention to schemes deemed most likely to be abused.
Significant focus is also paid to sectors where casual work is most prevalent and therefore more likely to involve people working and illegally claiming.
The department also targets airports and ports to identify people living elsewhere returning to illegally claim welfare.
In a statement, the Department said 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.
"A payment is not suspended or stopped on the basis of an anonymous report but it may trigger a review of a customer's entitlement."
A spokesperson added: "It should be borne in mind that while there is often a perception of fraud, the individual may be doing something that is allowed under the rules of the particular payment that they receiving, such as working and receiving a One-Parent Family Payment, provided earnings are within the limits and the Department is aware of the situation".