Comment: £1bn benefit fraud means UK must “invest into better systems” to protect public money

Following the news that fraudsters have taken advantage of looser rules around universal credit claims during the pandemic, John Dobson, CEO of anti-money laundering firm, SmartSearch, said: “This is yet another example of organised crime targeting government schemes during lockdown, following fraudulent claims on a massive scale against the furlough scheme, and the Bounce Back Loan scheme.

“This is public money that is being put at risk, at a time of unprecedented government borrowing to fight the impact of coronavirus. It took a junior civil servant to notice that many fraudulent claims were being made to the same bank account because the online verification hadn’t picked it up, or wasn’t being done. That raises the question as to why there aren’t more secure online processes in place to establish identity in government departments.

“The technology is available to make a remote ID check for an individual online in less than two seconds, and a check for business in less than two minutes, with bank account checks, facial recognition and document verification to add layers of security.

“These are browser-based systems that can be up and running within 24 hours. With the chancellor announcing his spending review today, perhaps he should look at investment into better systems for the DWP and Treasury to verify identity quickly and accurately online, and protect the public finances from fraud. This is a very small cost to protect billions of pounds of public money.”