Fears over benefit fraud – 5 April 2013
With the introduction of Universal Credit giving rise to fears of mass benefit fraud, officials suspicious of people would do well to follow the methods of forensic accountants in tracking down offenders. Universal Credit will replace benefits including income support and housing benefit with a single payment and millions of existing benefit claimants will be transferred onto the new system over the next four years, with the expectation that most people will apply for them and manage them online.
However, critics are concerned that the changes will be very hard to police and could lead to fraud on a massive scale, although one way of unearthing offenders would be to follow the investigative accountant’s trail of lifestyle. The most recent episode of the BBC drama The Syndicate focused on one of the lottery syndicate’s winners, who was under scrutiny for benefit fraud and had been claiming benefits of over £100 a week for over nine years.
She was discovered through appearing on TV with her co-workers in the win, even though she was claiming not to be working. She was also taking in ironing, which the investigator found out through chatting to one of her customers. Forensic accountants, like benefits investigators, get their information from a variety of sources, such as matching data from other agencies, members of the public and general investigation into a person’s lifestyle. If someone is claiming benefits and yet living like someone on a good income, alarm bells will ring and further enquiries will be made both on paper and in person.
Although The Syndicate is a TV show, it is incredible how people will put themselves into the public eye, such as the woman last year who was found building a swimming pool in her back garden while on income support, or the ‘unemployed’ caddie at the prestigious St Andrew’s golf course, who was pictured at an event and was actually earning £45 per round plus tips. Benefits investigators and forensic accountants take the whole picture into consideration as they plough through accounts, paperwork statements and lifestyle accounts before presenting their case to prosecutors.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 5 April 2013
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