Headlines: February 1st, 2001

Measures taken by local councils to reduce the risk of fraud are starting to pay off. A survey by the Audit Commission found that the level of fraud detected in the year ending April 2000 went down by 30% compared to the previous year. This is the first time for 10 years that fraud detection has declined. Although the fraud detection rate is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the total level of fraud, the Commission believes that the decline is the result of better fraud prevention measures. Councils in London are singled out for making the greatest improvement in fraud prevention.Housing Benefit accounts for 92% of all fraud and it is here that fraud prevention measures are starting to bite. A major weakness in verifying claims for Housing Benefit is that all benefit and pensions systems function independently. The National Fraud Initiative was launched to plug this loophole and now data from other systems is matched to Housing Benefit data to identify where any other payments are already being made. This data matching process for example identified a claimant who was receiving an occupational pension and overclaimed 19,000 pounds Housing Benefit. It is believed that publicity about the effectiveness of data matching will be an increasing deterrent to fraud.

A new type of fraud has been devised by asylum seeker landlords who are taking advantage of the difficulty of checking a fluid population. One property company made duplicate claims, claims for people who did not exist and claims for non-existent properties.