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DSS saves pounds 654m in fraud blitz

INVESTIGATORS with the Department of Social Security prevented record levels of benefit fraud, estimated at pounds 654m, last year, it is disclosed today.

The DSS's Benefits Agency detected 312,000 cases of claimants cheating the system. The figures represented an increase of pounds 96m in detected cases over the previous 12 months. Individual false claims - together worth pounds 543m - accounted for the majority of the cases.

Method-of-payment frauds by individuals, involving counterfeit or stolen giros and benefit order books, added a further pounds 50.5m. Organised method-of-payment frauds were worth pounds 54.8m, while multiple identity frauds - where individuals claimed benefits several times over using different names - accounted for another pounds 5.6m.

There were 7,645 criminal prosecutions and 1,825 people were arrested in investigations into organised fraud.

Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, said the clampdown on fraud would remain a high priority. 'Benefit fraud is a selfish crime . . . it robs the system of resources which should go to those who need them.'

But Donald Dewar, Labour spokesman on social security, said: 'The crackdown has been half-hearted. There is no clear . . . strategy. There is a yawning gap between what ministers say and do.'