'Lie detectors' will help catch benefit fraudsters

A scheme which checks voice stress levels to catch benefit fraudsters is to be extended across the country under moves which could save £30m a year.

The Government will provide £1.5m to increase the number of local authorities in Britain testing the technology from seven to 22. Ministers believe that about 10,000 fraudsters could be caught using the voice risk analysis (VRA) technology, which picks up any stress in a caller's voice as they answer questions.

The Work and Pensions minister James Plaskitt announced the extension of the scheme during a visit to Harrow, north-west London, one of the local authorities which piloted VRA, saving it an estimated £420,000 in benefit claims.

"This positive and encouraging news from the pilots shows that this technology is helping to combating benefit fraud," he said. "It is also making it quicker and easier to review claims, especially for those people who are genuinely entitled to benefits.

"Overall, the huge majority of people who receive benefits are entitled to them. However, there is a minority who will still try to steal money from those people who are most vulnerable. We need to continue to do more to make sure that taxpayers' money always goes to those who need it most."

VRA technology spots changes in a caller's voice, enabling trained operators to decide whether a call is high or low risk and what further action to take.

About £13bn is paid out in housing benefit every year to four million people, with an estimated £150m claimed fraudulently.