This is despite the fact that there is already channel for reporting benefit fraud. And despite the fact that 96% of calls to the National Benefit Fraud Hotline are malicious or timewasting. David wrote a bit about what it was like to be falsely accused of fraud back in January.
It's worth reading the official fraud stats on page 12 of this latest report to compare fraud to error and also to see how much is actually lost to fraud. But here are the fraud rates:
- Income Support: 2.4%
- JobSeeker's Allowance: 4.1%
- Pension Credit: 2.3%
- Housing Benefit: 1.3%
- Incapacity Benefit: 0.3%
- Disability Living Allowance: 0.5%
- Retirement Pension: 0.0%
- Carer's Allowance: 3.9%
The benefit with the highest rate of fraud is JSA at 4.1%. Certainly a far cry from the lies in the Daily Mail that 94% of IB claimants are fakers.
But it's because of these lies that the voters in the Crimestoppers poll would think that benefit fraud is so prevalent. And these lies go totally unchallenged in the mainstream press. This week on Question Time judge Constance Briscoe claimed there were vast swathes of fakers out there, but when asked how many she, unsurprisingly, didn't know. Next boss Lord Wolfson then claimed that JSA wasn't the benefit with the fraud problem, but disability benefits. The same disability benefits whose fraud figures I've italicised so you can clearly see just how low those fraud rates are. No-one corrected him. (Mehdi Hasan has written a blog post correcting some flawed statements from the episode, but not the disability benefits one.)
According to those same DWP figures, the overall cost to the country of benefit fraud is £1.2bn. About a fifth of tax avoided by just one company: Vodafone. It's certainly a far cry from the £35bn to £70bn avoided in tax in total. So why aren't Crimestoppers campaigning against tax issues rather than pouring fuel on to the already raging fires of hate?
It's worth noting that while researching for this post I Googled "tax fraud facts," the top (non-sponsored) result isn't actually anything to do with tax fraud: It's the HMRC page about tax credit fraud. Which says everything you need to know about how our society prioritises those wildly differing amounts of cash lost to fraud on the basis of the perceived social status of those committing the crimes.