Pension fraud – a growing problem

In the US there are 6.5 million people (equating to nearly 10% of the UK) that have active social security records who are 112 years of age or older, despite the fact that there are only a few dozen people known to be that old in the entire world.

This is costing American taxpayers billions each year. A investigative study by CBS New’s 60 Minutes programme revealed that nearly $125bn was disbursed by federal agencies to ineligible recipients, while more than $1bn in farm subsidies and disaster aid was paid to 170,000 dead people over a six-year period.

And the Office of Personnel Management Inspector General found just four years ago that $601m in improper payments were made to federal retirees found to have died over the previous five years.

It is therefore unsurprising that recently Senator Mark Warner, a member of the Senate Finance Committee introduced bipartisan legislation to help save millions of federal dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals.

The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act includes allowing Federal Agencies Access to the Complete Death Database, a file which is maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The legislation establishes procedures to ensure more accurate death data, for example screening for individuals aged over 112 and flagging them as deceased.

Deceased fraud is also a problem in the UK. In August it was discovered that a man had defrauded European Parliament out of an estimated £750,000 in pension payments to his deceased mother. Following the death of the man’s father in 1996, his mother had been granted a widow’s survivors pension of more than £4,000 per month. However, after she died in 2001 the payments were still being made to an account controlled by her son. The European Parliament is ‘confused’ how this happened, as usually pensioners are asked to prove that they are still alive every two years – a somewhat callous practice, you might think!

Currently, it is difficult to determine how much is being paid out by the state and by pension providers to dead people in the UK. But it is a problem and one that is estimated to be growing. This is why fraud protection needs to be introduced ‘behind the scenes’. Instead of asking people to prove they are alive identify them at the source - as soon as they have passed away using award-winning products like our deceased file, Halo. It’s not a nice business to have to think about and one that can leave a sour taste in the mouth, but sadly as deceased fraud increases it is something that needs to be addressed.