Fraudsters have been brazenly trying to claim fake benefits by sending Photoshopped images to imply that they are still living in the UK despite being abroad.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been inundated with thousands of forged documents during the coronavirus pandemic, dubbed the “universal credit surge”.
DWP’s anti-fraud regional office in Newcastle has been handling the claims, and digital forensics analysts and investigators have been cracking down on dodgy claims, which hit £8.6bn last year.
The DWP said it had saved £2bn worth of money by “correcting and preventing fraud and errors” over the past 12 months.
A picture shows a man brutally photoshopping the scene outside his front door after being asked to send proof he lives in the UK.
Analysts also noticed that the same lime-green door appeared in photos sent by many claimants seeking to prove they lived in the UK.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions told Chronicle Live: “When the pandemic hit, we saw a surge universal credit Extraordinary response requested to help all those in dire need.
“Unfortunately, unscrupulous fraudsters have taken advantage of this, but we are rooting them out and have reviewed 900,000 claims.
“Last year alone we saved £2 billion by correcting and preventing fraud and errors.
Image via Getty Images)
“But we are going further, preventing losses of £2 billion over the next three years and more than £4 billion over the next five years through our robust fraud programme.”
The department said it has launched a robust program to reduce fraud and errors in the benefits system, including introducing a new type of civil penalty in cases of fraud.
This is thanks to investing an additional £613m over the next three years to fight fraud and error, reviewing more than 2 million Universal Credit claims and hiring 2,000 specialists trained to review such claims.
A further £280m will be invested over the next two years to increase the level of protection against fraud and error, which will allow staff to review the majority of Universal Credit claims.
The plans are expected to prevent losses of £2bn over the next three years and £4bn over the next five years.
DWP officials said there was no indication that the people in the images were acting fraudulently, or associated with the locations shown, but the images were examples of bogus images sent to the department.