Anti-social welfare fraud software ‘saving State millions’

Facial recognition software has uncovered nearly 150 fraudsters

The report said 144 cases of suspected identity fraud had been identified since the facial-matching software was first introduced in 2013. Photograph: Gary Waters

The report said 144 cases of suspected identity fraud had been identified since the facial-matching software was first introduced in 2013. Photograph: Gary Waters

 

The Department of Social Protection has said its use of facial recognition software to reduce welfare fraud is resulting in millions of euro in savings.

It has been using the software to ensure the individual has not already been registered or is not using a different Personal Public Service number.

The software compares photographs of applicants captured during the registration process with others held on the department’s database.

The department published its annual report on Thursday, which said it had “proactively” cut down on social welfare fraud last year.

Investigation

It said 144 cases of suspected identity fraud had been identified since the facial-matching software was first introduced in 2013 and that these were then examined by its special investigation unit.

Where a match or a potential match is discovered the relevant records are referred to officers in the department’s client identity services section for further examination and resolution.

The department said it realised €506 million in control and anti-fraud savings last year. It said most of this came from some 950,000 entitlement reviews conducted last year with some €41 million of this came from overpayments, which attributed to customer fraud.

Short-term schemes generated the highest value savings with jobseekers schemes accounting for some €172 million of the total, the report says.

More than €82 million in overpayments to customers were recovered, it said.

The report also noted that the department referred 181 cases to the Chief State Solicitor to initiate legal proceedings for breaches of the Social Welfare Acts.

Legislation

A further 160 cases were referred to An Garda Síochána for consideration for prosecution under criminal justice legislation relating to more serious forms of fraud, including identity fraud, falsification of documents and personating.

The department also lodged 18 civil actions for failure to adhere to statutory provisions. The annual report said there were 19,000 reports of identity fraud lodged by ordinary citizens during the year.

The majority of reports related to people who were perceived to be working and claiming benefit, or not meeting the criteria for the one parent family payment.