Tip-offs on benefits cheats saves more than £129k
MORE than £129,000 of fraudulently claimed benefits have been found in Boston over the past two years – thanks to tip-offs from whistleblowers.
A freedom of information request revealed more than £80,000 worth of fraudulent benefit claims were made between April 2012-13.
It is nearly twice the amount found during the previous year, which left council officials trying to claw back around £49,000 of fraudulent claims.
Boston's fraud team say hundreds of residents' 'curtain-twitching' and reporting potential benefit cheats have helped them find the fraudsters.
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A fraud team officer, who wanted to stay anonymous because of his work, said: "Council tax payers don't like their money being fraudulently claimed by those who have no entitlement to receive it.
"The residents of Boston have provided valuable information on numerous cases to the council about those who seek to cheat the benefit system.
"As a result of these tip-offs, which can be provided completely anonymously, fraudulent claims have been stopped, the offenders punished and thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money has been saved."
The fraud team believes a "whistleblowing" phone line set up by Lincolnshire County Council and online report forms may be encouraging tip-offs.
"Boston Borough Council utilise the services of the Lincolnshire County Council whistleblowing hotline as a dedicated resource for residents to provide valuable information about those believed to be committing benefit fraud," the fraud officer explained.
New resources and technology is also helping the department sniff out housing and council tax fraudsters.
"The council uses accredited counter fraud specialists to detect and investigate fraud.
"Due to an increase in the resources available to the fraud department this has resulted in a year on year increase in the amount of fraud detected and prosecuted by the council," added the fraud officer.
"We have the legal powers to obtain information from employers, financial institutions, utility companies and other authorities, which are used to gather evidence on fraudulent claims.
"But one of the best sources of intelligence is information received from the residents of Boston."
However the team says cuts in benefit incomes aren't the only reason people deliberately commit fraud.
"Their financial circumstances could be a significant factor in this but we don't have specific evidence to show that more people are being driven to commit fraud because of benefit cuts," the officer explained.
Meanwhile, the money dished out in benefit payments to Boston residents topped £19 million pounds over the past year alone.
Over £19.6million has been paid out to people in Boston during April 2012-13, according to a further freedom of information request.
It is up from last year, when just over £18million was paid out to Boston residents in benefit claims.