The Department of Social Protection received more than 16,000 anonymous tip-offs from members of the public last year regarding suspected cases of social welfare fraud.
In 11,687 of these cases, a report of suspected fraud was sent to the relevant departmental section for examination as clients were found to be in receipt of more than one payment.
It was not possible to pursue a report in 4,034 cases due to lack of information, the absence of any welfare claim, or the fact that information supplied would not impact on any entitlement.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of welfare tip-offs since the economic crisis. In 2008, for example, just 1,044 anonymous reports were made by the public to the department.
However, the number of tip-offs jumped to 16,917 in 2011, 28,022 in 2012, and 24,720 in 2013. In 2014, 21,088 cases of suspected welfare fraud were reported.
The figures were released by the department in response to a request for access to records under the Freedom of Information Act.
A statement from the Department of Social Protection noted that all anonymous reports are examined and, where appropriate, are referred to inspectors for investigation and follow-up action. “A payment is not suspended or stopped solely on the basis of an anonymous report.
The anonymous report, however, may be a ‘trigger’ for the instigation of a review of a customer’s entitlement,” it said.
The section of the department’s website that facilitates the submission of anonymous tip-offs outlines a number of circumstances for which a claimant could be reported.
These include working while claiming dole, living with a partner and claiming One Parent Family Payment, claiming a benefit for a person who is deceased, and receiving a payment while living abroad.
“It should be borne in mind that, while there is often a perception of fraud, when a case is examined the individual may be doing something that is allowed under the rules of the particular payment that they are receiving,” the department statement said.
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