Computer that reads signatures fights fraud

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The Independent Online
A computer system that can automatically check handwritten signatures has been used to deter benefit fraudsters at two job centres, it was revealed yesterday, writes Steve Connor.

The Employment Service said that the signature verification system was used to check the identity of about 4,000 claimants between September 1994 to the end of November in Liverpool and Tyneside. Claimants provided three specimen signatures - which were stored on computer - by writing with an electronic pen on a digital tablet that measured and timed the pen's movements.

Although the service said the trial has not yet finished, preliminary data released yesterday by the manufacturers, AEA Technology of Harwell, Oxfordshire, showed that the computer rejected about seven sign-on cases out of a total of around 300 each day.

A spokeswoman for the Employment Service said that the signature verification computer is still being evaluated to see whether it could be introduced throughout the service's 1,100 job centres. ``It's the first time we have done this. It was shown to have had a deterrent effect in that certain individuals did not sign-on after the computer's introduction,''she said.