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back to article ICO warns coalition on benefits snooping plan

The Information Commissioner has asked coalition ministers to explain their plans to use credit reference agencies to gather evidence of benefit fraud, citing privacy concerns. Christopher Graham today said he has requested a meeting with the welfare minister Lord Freud. It follows David Cameron's announcement yesterday of a …

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FAIL

but the bigger picture surely is:

to know someone is defrauding they have to dig up dirt and spy on them. meaning they will have to spy on everyone to know who is defrauding. i just dont want some dodgy incompetents having access to all my details to sift through. plus, if you sell stuff on ebay etc how do they know what is earnings and what is just you selling off old stuff. im sure all of us have the odd payment going into banks (such as my mrs paying her 25% of the council tax - hey i pay for everything else lol) - how many innocent people will get flagged up for trivial things like this?

on a side note my old boss used to almost double his wages just buying and selling shit on ebay. i think people like him (trader) need taxing on that. fair enough you sell off your old stuff but this guy was making £3k month off ebay alone!

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tax!

It's already taxable!

Did you like your old boss? If not, i'm sure the Inland Revenue would love to know about his undeclared business that he's illegally not paying tax on.

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/tax-evasion/index.htm

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hehe....

nah, he was a good bloke. wouldnt grass him up. i mean what would they do with the extra cash anyway? piss it away on cleaning moats etc :(

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Grenade

Small fry...

I notice they are planning to go to great lengths to tackle benefits cheats. I hope the Condems will be as fiercely relentless in their pursuit of tax evaders.

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shitstorm

if they do go ahead with this - essentially cross checking all benefit claimants against national credit databases - man, are they going to uncover a lot of shit... I actually think it's quite a good idea, but people's credit rating should not be at all affected by any information sharing. which it probably will be. if you apply for credit on a new TV and are found to be on the rock & roll, i guess they're going to tell you to p*ss off.

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Flame

Welcome to five years ago

NuLabour started this nonsense with their NFI public sector employment/benefit/tax data trawling. The plan was always to involve the private sector in this, but sadly they were too busy fighting over NIR/ID cards to bother too much with it. The current lot have much less distraction and even a modicum of goodwill on that front. Mark my words it will get worse from here on in, with first compliant institutions like banks and insurers, then retail, then the rest of the private sector. All in the name of "combating benefit fraud".

What really pisses me off about the whole thing is the misappropriation of the "fraudulent activity" clauses in the DPA for this kind of mass data mining bullshit.

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Black Helicopters

Privacy Impact Assessment

PIA. First thing I thought of when I heard about this proposal, and the first thing the Department should have done when cooking up the policy, as the ICO says. If they've written one it should be available, and we'd then know a great deal more about how the scheme is supposed to work. If they haven't written one, then it's report to the Cabinet Office for a meeting without coffee.

For example, who tells what to whom? Does the department send a list of benefit claimants with claim amounts to, say, Experian, and say "check these out, will you, see if their spending pattern matches what we're bunging them?" Experian would love that, wouldn't they.

Or will the department just ask for a credit check on Joe Claimant, and do the spadework in-house. Given the forthcoming Bonfire of the Civil Servants, I'm guessing not.

All these sorts of details have to be explicit in the PIA:

http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/pia_handbook_html_v2/index.html

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Joke

Isn't the .....

... welfare Ministers name a Fraudian slip (groan).

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Big Brother

Nothing to hide

Nothing to worry about!

It may save the country a few quid to boot. I don't see the problem really, they aren't going to be checking you out if you are working and not claiming anything. It's about time the freeloaders we all pay for get their finances checked out properly rather than just having to tell a few lies to an ignorant paper pusher to get paid!

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Yo! AC!

If this was supposed to be a joke, it wasn't funny.

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Having been...

...accused of benefit fraud many moons ago because civil servants in Dept A would not talk to civil servants in Dept B no matter how much paperwork I sent in (I was on a "Stop being an unemployed oik" course) and only being saved by an understanding-but-exasperated claims inspector who agreed I'd done nothing wrong; I think the potential for cock-up exists on a truly epic scale and I doubt that private companies are going to be that willing to properly investigate matters (thus losing their bonus). Actually, given the current climate, I doubt the State will properly investigate either.

Whilst cutting benefit fraud is a worthy cause, how about we re-hire all the sacked tax inspectors and train a few more? Y'know, the inspectors that raise more money than they cost. Y'know, the ones that go after tax-dodging companies and people. Y'know, the ones that might be able to gather evidence and secure prosecutions?

Oh, wait, the kinds of people tax inspectors would go after all have the cash to grease the right palms. Public to get it in the neck. Again! Carry on ConDem Alliance! The public have got used to being robbed by their elected employees!

It would also be a good move to scrap most (all?) PFI/PPP deals, but then again the PFI/PPP lobby can also grease the correct palms. Nice being rich enough to buy the correct decision. And don't start me on the banks, their exec bonuses etc would help fill the hole in the public accounts quite nicely, and they owe us big style. But once again, their wallets are louder than the voices of the public.

Can't possibly allow an actual democracy in the UK now, can we?

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"incentivising"

No. Just don't.

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Grenade

Eh?

I've had my benefit stopped just because someone else with the same first and last name was in prison, if they (DWP) can mess that up themselves what will happen if an outside company muck up.

I also know someone who was working found out when they lost their job that "they" were already claiming benefit, despite having paid tax and NI, the DWP didn't question the benefit payments. When the real person tried to claim benefit it took some time for the DWP to come clean as to why the DWP appeared to ignore them when they were questioning where their benefit was!

We all know what happened to the child benefit database, I wonder what will happen to pointless wasted time AKA 'intelligence' information and how that could be used, "claimant always uses a cash point at 10am every monday" hmm! some crim can mug them ?

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Benefit fraud or tax fraud?

Yes the odd bunch of Hungarian gypsies can take millions.

£3m is a *small* VAT fraud. A decent *tax* fraud team with *real* teeth could net 100s of millions.

Badly thought out 1/2 cock policy.

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Limited Information?

Interesting point, that - only UK credit information shows up on the UK credit report. If they were sending it all to Hungary and spent only that cash a credit report would not have anything suspicious on it.

Also, if a bank account is shown it only shows a balance when it is overdrawn

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Anonymous Coward

Bank

Since when did banks start disclosing information on how much money I have in my account? The only time I know they can do this is when you owe the banks money ie overdrafts / unauthorised overdrafts or lones.

They can not disclose how much money is going in to the account. Also this could be plan nonsense as it could be just be money that you are transfer between your own accounts.

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Real help.

It's a great idea that could reduce benefit fraud to nil amount and ensure that people who commit that fraud get some help that they need. It doesn't have to mean prison for those caught and it won't, look at the numbers. These civil liberties people need to undertand what liberty is, that's people living free and getting the help they need so preventing them from being identified is counter productive to achieving a free society. We're all going to have to have less for the next ten years so get with it do-gooders wrongly. Wha, wah, wah go and moan to your Mams.

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Go for it

Normally I'm the first to get up in arms about encroachments of the government on our freedom, or the imposition of yet another tracking or monitoring database (and lets face it, under the last lot, not a week went by without another ridiculous Orwellian scheme being announced). But seriously, I can't get myself particularly fussed about this. So they're going to match people who spend an unusual amount on credit cards up with benefit claimants, and investigate the clear outliers? Sounds pretty reasonable, and if it reduces the amount of my taxes paid to fraudsters so much the better.

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Grenade

Diversion

Surely this 'noise' was more to do with the EU's announcement that as agreed in the Lisbon Treaty, it was about to start taxing so-called EU citizens directly.

That git Cameron wouldn't want that to be widely known, would he?

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Welcome

the agenda

is generally discourage people from claiming the benefits they need, to keep them in a state of perpetual dependency, as a result of privacy intrusion, sharp withdrawal of benefits for flimsy reasons then slow to reinstate when the truth is made clear, nasty rhetoric of 'scroungers' etcetera;

All terribly myopic as the perpetual dependency is precisely what the new government promised to address; well as they say plus ça change

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Headmaster

Thickest Idea Evar !

So, this Is basically a Daily Mail readers wet dream. That's why the Conservatives and indirectly their underlings... sorry "partners" are pushing it. The idea of all these insipid poor people cheating these upright Middle Class and Upper Class people who would never think of dodging tax or exploiting poor people to turn a buck just makes me ill.

Shame on you poor people ! Shame !

But has anyone asked if this estimated £1.5 Billion per year would cost us more than the initial start up and operating costs for the new "Trawl and Haul" scheme.

Let's think about these costs.

1) Startup Costs; creation of department / re-organisation of existing department; to encompass transferral of staff or hiring new staff, new furniture & IT equipment, possible relocation to new site.

One could approximate maybe £10 Million to get things started.

2) Cost of employment; If this figure is to be believed then it could mean upwards of over more than 500,000 people defrauding the Government @ an average of £3000 per year. Of these how many are repeat offenders? How many are one off offenders, who are now employed and out of the system? The Government does not know, indeed it can't even publish an estimation of just how many "Benefit scroungers" there are at all.

Let us say for every 1000 fraudsters there is 1 public employee and say 5 private employees @ an average £25,000 per year, so around 500 Public workers = £12.5 Million. Private companies will of course require that any dedicated staff be paid out of the public purse. So around 2500 private workers = £62.5 Million. Thus overall cost of employment is only £75 Million. Sounds cheap in comparison to the £1.5 Billion being lost. However that is not the only cost

3) Operational costs; Coffee Machines, Rent, Power, Software licences etc

Perhaps not more than a £5 Million a year ?

4) Bounty fees; Private companies will want commission of that there is no doubt just paying the wages and balancing the books is not enough they will want to turn a profit from this new "revenue stream". If the average Fraudster is making a hookey £3000 grand every year their bounty might be say much as 25% of that ? let's say they detect at the full 100% every year lol, that's £250,000,000 straight into private hands. Of course they will catch much less maybe only as much as 20% (100,000) but even at the likely estimation that's still £75 Million and of course 80% of the fraud us still occurring (£1.2 Billion). Perhaps they will target those who are taking the most but then that involves targeted investigation and will cost more to achieve.

Either way the cost will be high and 50% plus success will be unlikely especially in the first 3 years of the scheme.

5) Judicial costs; The cost to produce evidence and the cost of trial. Firstly one can assume the defendants will require Legal Aid. Secondly one can assume that the majority will have no saving or equity that can be used to pay the fine if one is given, it is highly unlikely that any will have a house which can be repossessed. So if say that 100,000 people are caught every year and brought to trail (the current figure is 56,000 per year) and that the cost of legal aid is £100 per hour and that each trial/hearing is at least 1 hour long and the consultation with the defendant is at least 2 hours in total that is £30 Million pounds per year. The CPS' costs will be slightly more as they will have to gather evidence and that may take more time. Let us say the total is 6 hours for them., that's £60 Million. the rest of the court fees could come to as much as £200 per hearing, so another £20 Million. Then there are admin fees of course. All together cost of trial could be upwards of £110 Million per year.

Even if the defendants are fined, most of them will not have the finances to pay and as they will be back on benefits the Government may well be paying itself.

This bring us to the other main point. The government will not recoup the money lost in any way as the fraudster will most likely not have anything to pay back with. The cost of incarceration, probation or community service supervision may well be more than the fraudsters original cost to the Government. The only benefit to any of this is to stop hardcore offenders from doing the same thing the following year and to pander to the Daily Mail mob, but as there will always be new potentially fraudulent claims one doubts that there is even a long term saving.

Perhaps the most telling aspect with regards to the true nature of this policy is that benefit fraud only accounts for less than 1% of £148 Billion spent every year whereas Tax evasion costs in excess of 15 times the amount benefit fraud costs.

Also think of how much wealth is concentrated in just a 1000 companies evading tax ? I would argue much more than the 500,000 people potentially defrauding the benefits system. You could recoup more by doing much less targeting tax evasion.

I think it can safely be said that this us more of a political stunt and Tories acting out their deepest sadistic sexual fantasies... those embedded in their ancient cultural psyche... the unconscious remembrance of beating and raping ones servants, serf's & slaves.

This has nothing to do with economics.

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Also infuriating

How many of the companies evading tax or hiding out in tax havens are banks that the taxpayer actually owns?

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Any thing that gets up...

...Swami Chakrabarti's nose has got to be good.

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FAIL

Really?

So you're happy for your credit report to be left on a train by some braindead civil servant?

Don't be such an ass.

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