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back to article UK.gov uses Experian data to sniff out fraudsters

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have signed a deal with credit reference agency Experian to use its data to detect fraud and error in the tax credits and benefits systems. They said that a recent pilot protected more than £16m of potential losses in tax credits, and that the move …

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David Gauke, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: "The government will not tolerate people who dishonestly divert money away from those who are genuinely entitled to it."

So rich, what about the Government's plan to have Cancer sufferers / those on chemotherapy treatment attend ATOS' back to work interviews...

I'd bloody well call that "dishonestly diverting money away from those genuinely entitled to it".

F**king despicable hypocrites!

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Bravo, OpenIndiana

Many, many up-votes!

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Big Brother

This is terrifying.

When you understand that Experian are also engaged in involuntary mass communications interception (via their Hitwise.co.uk business) ... you could be forgiven for fearing we are now all criminal suspects.

Communications surveillance is meant to be governed by RIPA... and used only in the most serious cases of suspected crime, and only when authorised by the Secretary of State.

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@dephormation.org.uk

But don't you know we're now all presumed guilty unless we can prove our innocence!

Got something to hide...? Well, not any more!

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Anonymous Coward

Overkill

Why would HMRC need this. If they want to know who to investigate they should start with any companies the HMRC boss has lunch with.

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Anonymous Coward

Typical

The HMRC boss has just given you a thumbs down too!

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Anonymous Coward

Prediction

Having worked there I KNOW they have fingers in vodafone's data. But will they exposes Vodafone's tax cheating?

No, of course not. This deal is only for catching the little people, not the big fish.

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"They said that a recent pilot protected more than £16m of potential losses in tax credits, and that the move could save about £700m for HMRC over the life of the contract and £100m for DWP. A spokesman for HMRC said the duration and value of the contract are confidential."

£16m is not a lot, probably less than what they are paying Experian. Hence why value of the contract is confidential.

As a tax payer I'd rather everyone get benefits and those working get taxed more (same amount so net is 0). This gets rid of the whole JSA bureaucracy and those private sector "training" leeches.

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Z80

£16M

Do you think the pilot scheme looked at the everyone claiming these benefits?

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WTF?

"Protected"

Is this some kind of newspeak definition of the word "protected"?

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Anonymous Coward

No, it's not newspeak

If you pay for new locks on your doors and install a burglar alarm and that prevents people from stealing your property you have protected your property.

If you pay a company to cross check data and identify tax and benefit fraudsters you have protected the money.

They specifically used the word protected instead of saved because they won't have saved that amount due to the cost of running the pilot (which could easily be most or more than that 16 million).

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The government will not tolerate people who dishonestly divert money away from those who are genuinely entitled to it unless they are;

1. Already rich; and or

2. Members of Parliament.

Corrected for you, no need to thank me.

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Re: Members of Parliament

Given the example of the cohabiting benefits, I wonder if Experian will be helping the relevant parliamentary bodies to determine where MPs are actually living and whether they are still presenting falsified documentation to commit fraud.

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just have to spy on council block estates, 90% of estates dont work, and none are on JSA, but they all have parties all day and night, and so on

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got thumbs down... im surrounded by weirdos who spy on your life, complain to the housing association because you buy milk everyday, they all bang around and never leave the block, then they all have sick notes because they cant sleep and have a easy 2 months.. and its 1 block alone which cost benefits 40k a month in rent//council tax/income support

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Black Helicopters

I'm all for catching rogues but...

...as this wasn't the original purpose of Experian's database, don't they need to tweak the DPA to make this legal? Next thing they'll be requisitioning online shopping records to see if you've bought anything expensive.

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MGJ
Go

Go read the DPA

Prevention and detection of crime gives you a legitimate reason to share information.

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Stop

@MGJ

True, but this is a fairly wide interpretation of "prevention and detection of crime", and probably not within the spirit of the Act at all. It is merely a huge fishing expedition in which everyone who is not a company director, Whitehall civil servant, or MP is regarded as guilty unless proven innocent.

The benefits are not worth the overall costs (probably monetarily, but certainly not in terms of the wider picture), and it stinks to high heaven.

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In addition, when you apply for credit the consent you give for the check with a credit reference company specifically says that you give consent for the reference company to share the data for fraud prevention purposes.

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Too bad...

...they didn't think about that during the MP expenses scandal.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't get it

How does this weed out benefit cheats exactly? are they collecting info on peoples bank accounts to see if they go over the threshold for benefits is all I can think of, otherwise if they trying to stop people on benefits ordering things off the internet or having their own utility accounts or getting loans etc, isn't that illegal?

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I think its more to see if the person claiming benefits living / spending beyond the level afforded by benefits, a good example would be credit cards, if the person is spending & repaying £1000 plus per month on a credit card while receiving far less than that on benefit then there must be some other form of income that the benefits agency are not aware of.

it will also show up credit to anyone else at the same address that may not be on records elsewhere (common one is 2 people on benefits living together while claiming they do not).

of course it will work the opposite way too since it will show clearly where someon is not managing to cover their bills (things like paying council tax arrears back at an extra £1 per week etc), it may end up being a way of spotting where people are entitled to extra help but are currently not claiming for it

double edged sword on this one

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Anonymous Coward

Also...

Also a genuine claimant will have a credit card, bank account, and a history of addresses that matches those of the cards etc.

Organised fraudsters create fictitious identities and pretend to be those people when they put in false claims. Requiring a full(er) history makes life that bit harder for the fraudsters.

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Unhappy

@Jess--

" ... it may end up being a way of spotting where people are entitled to extra help but are currently not claiming for it". Good point, but do you really think that it will work that way? I am damn certain it won't!

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Anonymous Coward

So Some Illegal Abuse is Ok Provided it is Approved by the Grasping Class

What an odd lot of posts so far, so fraudulent none working non taxing paying non employing money thieving is OK for many of the posters so far.

I am not a shareholder in vodaphone and do not have service from them either yet the p[oster's attitude so far is not OK by this tax payer.

If Vodaphone, who employ many staff who do pay a range of taxes to fund the lay-about class are able to convince the HMRC that their tax affairs are up to date that is wrong.

However, it is wrong to chase thieves who steal from honest tax payers

If HMRC did get the law wrong in either case sort it out through legal channels.

Dumbly saying 'benefit' fraud is OK while simply alleging that an approved and currently legal scheme is not OK because 'you' do not like it is pretty daft.

For the benefit of those who do not understand how a pilot scheme works it usually goes something like this. Take a small part of a possible task, work through the processes and carry out a cost benefit analysis. Study the results and see if

a) it is scalable

b) if it is cost effective

c) if it is possible.

If the answers appear to be positive assess the possible benefit and decide if it is the best use of resources,. Thus a £16 million saving from a pilot can be scaled to produce an estimated country wide saving as can the likely costs.

Sadly, to work out a no 'brainer' you do actually have to have a brain.

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@AC

Going after the big companies and highest earners is likely to net far more than chasing the little fish. The figure cited actually border on trivial (less than £1bn over the length of the contract, whatever that is, but likely to be ten years).

I actually have no problem with people trying to get enough to live on when on benefits - never have, never will. The fact that so many will put so much effort into it suggests that we are failing this people badly.

Oh, and pilot schemes - I've seen figures from government pilot schemes before. The benefits are always inflated to as close to ridiculous as possible, and the costs minimised in the same way.

To me, the no-brainer is that this is not going to work, it is going to cost far more than the benefits accrued (financially, in terms of trust in the whole system, and also in privacy rights). From my point of view, it is you that is cerebrally challenged.

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I can see the issues and the "big brother" angle on this. But ive always wondered why the govt didnt do this already. From using equifax, and looking at the huge amount of data they hold on me (not sure i like it, but if i want credit its the only way) Ive always wondered why the govt and them didnt team up and use the two data streams to chatch crooks. On JSA, but you have a car on finance, 8 credit cards, and 3 registered address? The you sir are a up to somthing.

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"On JSA, but you have a car on finance, 8 credit cards, and 3 registered address?"

OK, this might happen (though I'm sceptical), but very, very rarely - so much so that it just does not justify this willful destruction of the public/private boundary.

If there is any evidence of an individual doing it, by all means get a court order and look at that person's Equifax file. Do not go on a huge fishing trip with the entire population under suspicion.

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Anonymous Coward

Anyone any Experience of ATOS?

I wonder how many who get hot under the collar have any knowledge of the workings of ATOS.

I have seen ATOS do an assessment after a claimant had been waiting 8 months for an answer.

The assessor could not have been fairer and was totally stunned by what they found, the claim was paid in full and backdated to the start of the process 8 days after the assessment. A few days later carer's allowance was also pay backdated for the full period.

I know some have had problems with assessments and some appeals have been necessary, but should those caught working on building sites really be paid for being bed ridden?

Not all cancer sufferers are wiped out for long periods by their treatment, though sadly many are and take month to recover, tragically some never do recover.

Others are affected for a few days at a time but can otherwise function more or less normally - and from what I have seen, they are able to make a better recovery by managing their processes.

Fortunately my wife was not working or expected to work at the time so no question of a state payment ever arose.

Anonymous for obvious reasons.

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some title

For the person who asked how experian may come into it, having worked in a benefit office the gov would check bank accounts to see what payments were going in regular payments that were not recorded on your declarations when you signed up to the dole where noted and queried, and accounts you hadnt declared where likewise checked.

Ac 12:19

I totally agree benefits cheating is wrong. However I do have some objection to the way the are being demonised in an effort to get us looking the other way from the friends of goverment who are stealing from us.

Benefits cheating from the figures they are dating it on (2008 I think) showed that benefit cheats took about 1.4 billion (note these figures are remembered I cBA to go looking up the exact amounts reported but close enough for indication of the disparity I feel). Whereas tax evasion cost us approximately 15.5 billion.

Yet every politician says we are going to stand up and get tough on these scum, making themselves look good and tough about tackling crime and solving our economy, and securing themsleves nice corporate roles for when they retire from politics.

By all means chase the benefits cheats, but lets try going after the ones who are really robbing us blind as well eh?

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this move could save...

#1. [enter any large number, the more 000s the better]

#2... and in the meantime, the estimated price for this is [enter any large number]

#3... and when the idea has been finally scrapped/deemed unworkable/over the budget / unfit for purpose / 10-years-behind-the-schedule, it will have cost [take the large number from # 2 and add one zero]

no, wait, this is scarecrowing! It will actually provide the savings promised, will cost much less to implement than provisioned for, it will be delivered BEFORE the schedule and it will definitely NOT generate yet another 5-line entry in the media on another parliamentary commission which will have spent [enter the figures from #1, 2, 3 and add an extra 0] years & £££ to come up with any conclusions and recommendations on how not to do it again.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm. Experian.

Never made a mistake have they? Never in fact made a total balls up and pushed any perfectly solvent businesses into bankruptcy through an erroneous credit statement.

Course not. That NEVER happens.

Have to stay (almost) anon I'm afraid.

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@AC

And they've never accidentally linked the data of two unrelated people, nor denied someone credit based on what a previous occupant of that address did, nor mis-recorded data so that the details of someone with the same name affect your records...

Nope, this never happens...

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"The government will not tolerate people who dishonestly divert money away from those who are genuinely entitled to it."

WTF? The Government will not tolerate the tax office?

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Facepalm

A spokesman for HMRC said the duration and value of the contract are confidential.

What's the defence they propose to use against a FOIA enquiry? It is after all public money that is paying Experian's invoices and the Cabinet Office has been assiduous in telling everyone how transparent their procurements will be. BTW since this was a public procurement, did it follow European rules?

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Big Brother

oooh oooh

This is precisely the sort of govt behavior that data -sharing laws are supposed to protect citizens against.

In this particular case, here are some legitimate questions and possible scenarios:

Under what circumstances will the UK Gov do this cross-referencing? Will it be

1) They need some kind of probable cause before they can cross-check someone?

2) They simply hoover up all the data and do a cross-check on everyone currently claiming tax benefits or the dole?

3) New and old claimants will be required to waive their right to data privacy before they can receive any (more) money?

Out of all the above scenarios, only number 3) seems remotely fair and then only if the people who apply for a credit rating from Experian sign the same waiver.

I don't like people who cheat on benefits either, but I like Big Brother a lot less. How can this possibly work without trampling all over people's digital rights and civil liberties? Not to mention the precedent it sets for even more intrusions in the future. Slippery slope....slippery slope....

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I'm pretty sure they will find more than that. If they look in the right place.

Why pay someone else when they fail to harvest data they already have?

Tax credits were handed out like cornflakes, there is no validation. I would imagine if they cross checked between tax returns / PAYE a good portion of the £23.7B would be up for grabs.

Housing benefit looks the same. £400 per week for house £280 week for a flat rental. Not sure how many people who don't work need to live anywhere that expensive? I wonder how many have had pay rises / changes in circumstances that would mean they are no longer eligible?

Also they should make the decision that if they are long term unemployed they leave the city centre unless they are willing to fund it themselves.

So there is £45 Billion in two benefits that could be tracked by correlating information already held by HMRC. (2009 figures)

Child benefit could be administered via PAYE / tax return which would reduce costs, allow gentle tapering and those who weren't working could be dealt with via Tax credits etc.

Now when they have done all that they can start with other government databases, DVLA, car insurance ( I would imagine named drivers could be interesting) , Land registry (I wonder how many people claiming benefits have properties), tenancy deposits (likely to be in joint names), bank transfers / holdings over £10k.

Of course they could also get details of anyone charged with a crime and investigate those as well so they can assist the police with proceeds of crime. They may also find they have other sources of income they haven't declared such as burglary.

When they have done all that they could try Experian.

But no lets harvest private data, wonder how soon my credit rating will end up in Nigeria?

A cynic would suggest that someone is looking for a directorship.

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Directorship ?

No, no, no:

Ermine at least.

And millions and millions for your mates company.

Maybe if all benefit claimants formed companies and registered them in the channel islands ? (which, by the way, also includes state pensioners)

I'll call mine "Voodoofone"

Ample connotations to massive tax avoidance/evasion, which costs the UK some 100 billion each year.....every year......

Unfortunately, benefit claimants do not have a large enough supply of money available to be able to afford to buy their own MP.....

Shi' 'appens.

Become a tax cheat, an expenses fiddler, enact massive fraud against the taxpayer, feather your bed for the future, get loads of contacts in biz: Get elected, become an MP.

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