Other fraud solutions are available, says CIFAS

Credit reference agencies are not the only way for the government to tackle benefit fraud and they may even be intrusive, the not-for-profit fraud prevention service CIFAS has warned. Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement that commercial data services providers, such as credit reference agencies, will be used to crack down on the £5.2 billion benefit and tax credit fraud problem, the service has called for ministers to look at all options.

“Most of the comment, including by Ministers, has focused on the credit reference agencies. I am sure they will have a part to play in helping to combat fraud. But I strongly urge Ministers to look around at all the options available to them, including databases of known fraudsters such as ours, rather than assuming that the credit reference agencies have all the answers or represent the most cost-effective option,” said Peter Hurst, chief executive of CIFAS.

He welcomed the move towards fraud prevention, rather than resolution of cases after the event. Hurst will be writing to work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith MP, to explain how the not-for-profit sector could help in the counter-fraud strategy.

“Currently, the public services employ thousands of people to investigate losses after they have happened.It cannot be acceptable for every working adult in the United Kingdom to be working for the equivalent of seven days for nothing to fund the cost of fraud against the public sector. But it’s equally unacceptable to delve into every claimant’s personal financial details such as private credit card spending, utility, mobile phone and satellite TV bills as a matter of course,” said Hurst.

He added: “What is needed instead is a fraud prevention regime that relies on preventative fraud data sharing across both the private and public sectors using the latest technology, analytical techniques and rapid decision making. We need to identify who the crooks are but without prejudicing innocent people. It’s about striking the right balance between the need to prevent crime and the personal privacy of the law-abiding majority.”

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