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SPOTLIGHT SUCCESS HERALDS NEW NATIONAL FRAUD CRACKDOWN

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Social security secretary Peter Lilley has announced a nationwide blitz against benefit fraud involving 13 new 'Spo...
Social security secretary Peter Lilley has announced a nationwide blitz against benefit fraud involving 13 new 'Spotlight' campaigns, starting on 16 October.

The move builds on the successful series of 'Spotlight on Benefit Cheats' campaigns in selected areas over the last six months. It will also reinforce the unprecedented impact of the national 'Beat a Cheat' phoneline.

More than £40m of taxpayers money has already been saved in 'Spotlight on Benefit Cheats' campaigns which covered 22 areas between April and July this year. The campaigns generated more than 14,000 calls from members of the public, involved more than 60,000 home visits and targeted reviews, and have so far resulted in more than 700 people being referred for prosecution.

The 'Beat a Cheat' Hotline received calls from around 70,000 members of the public in just eight weeks - an unprecedented public response.

The new Benefit Payment Card, which will eliminate order book and giro fraud, will also be launched in the first post offices in October.

Mr Lilley said:

'It's people on modest incomes who are most outraged by scroungers ripping off the social security system and often ending up better off than honest working people. That is why we are determined to crack down on benefit fraud.

'Last year we detected and stopped a record £1.4bn. But we know that far more fraud remains undetected. Earlier this year we launched Operation Spotlight, which showed that people all over Britain share my determination to stamp out fraud.

'The Spotlight campaign will now be extended to thirteen new areas throughout the country. No benefit cheat will be safe. My message to cheats is simple: wherever you are, stop now or you will be caught.'

The Spotlight campaign begins with two weeks of intensive local publicity to warn people to put their affairs in order, followed by a crackdown involving:

-- a 'freephone' hotline number - 0800 854 440 - to tell DSS staff in confidence about suspected fraud

-- local data-matching exercises to identify cases meriting investigation

-- special drives on types of employers and self-employed likely to be involved in benefit fraud

-- higher profile for Housing Benefit fraud, particularly where landlords may be involved

-- extra home visits on new and existing claimants.

The Spotlight campaign has already been successfully launched in the following areas:

Croydon, Haringey, Enfield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Westminster, Camden, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bristol, Lancaster, Barrow-in-Furness, the Isle of Wight, Cardiff, Plymouth, Great Yarmouth, Brighton, the Medway towns, Rhyl, Darlington and East Cleveland.

Types of Fraud

Social Security fraud covers a wide spectrum - from individuals misrepresenting facts about themselves or dependants, to organised groups of criminals who target the methods of payment or large scale multiple identity frauds. No benefit is free from abuse, but the main areas of fraud appear to be centred on income related benefits - eg Income Support, Housing Benefit - administered by local authorities - and short term benefits like Unemployment Benefit.

Local Authorities currently have several hundred staff devoted to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit fraud investigation.

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