Universal Credit and a pattern of fraud

A major fraud has been reported affecting Universal Credit.  Over the course of the last eight and a half years, I’ve frequently commented on the vulnerability of the UC system to fraud and error, despite repeated assertions from the government – and the falsification of the business case – to claim the opposite.  This fraud is different from most, because it represents organised criminal activity that is neither attributable to claimants nor to DWP officials.  The criminals  pretend to be other people, both claimants and people who have not claimed, to register for short term loans before any checks might be made.  (This is not, for the most part, ‘identity theft’; it is personation.  A fraud of this sort is typically a fraud on the DWP, not on the claimaint.)

It should have been obvious from the outset that computer-based identification wouldn’t be sufficiently secure for the purposes of the DWP.  There was something close to an admission of this more than  three years ago, when Verify, the successor to the failed “Identity Assurance”, was cut adrift.  But the problem is not only down to poor tech.  The situation has been produced by a system that relied on online verification, rather than claims in person; that left claimants without resources for well over a month; and replaced a system capable of processing the vast majority of claims within 14 days with one that struggled to do it in six weeks, and sometimes could take as long as three months.   Universal Credit is error-prone by design.  Its vulnerability to deception is only a part of that.



One thought on “Universal Credit and a pattern of fraud”

  1. From an advice perspective, it was identified early on that this online-only claim process would be problematic for claimants and welfare advisers. My understanding is that some advice agencies are having to hold client claim details including log-ins for those clients who are unable to keep such information themselves. This is unfortunate as it exposes advice agencies to potential data protection and even fraud issues in the event of an unauthorised person gaining access to such data. Prior to UC, advice agencies collected only data directly relevant to helping folks claim; “security information” such as bank details etc kept by the client. Now it is open to more abuse/misuse (if there are a few “dodgy” lawyers then statistically there may be a few “dodgy” advisers?). A mess of the government’s making & a failure to listen.

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