NOTTS: COUNCIL WORKER SCUPPERED FRAUD ATTEMPT

A council worker prevented the taxpayer from being scammed out of thousands of pounds when they realised they were being targeted by fraudsters.

The con artists were using the ‘I am your boss’ scam, which involves criminals making fraudulent requests for payments while using the identity of senior council officers.

151 cases of fraud were detected by the county council

151 cases of fraud were detected by the county council

According to the council, when scammers asked that the member of staff transfer £19,274 to an account “employee vigilance initiated direct action to prevent the fraudulent request being processed. The case was referred to Action Fraud.”

It was one of a total of 151 individual cases which were detected by the council last year, with 28 members of staff spending time investigating.

Now for the first time, the council now has a dedicated fraud detective who helps root out and prevent the crime.

Councillor Bruce Laughton, who represents the Muskham and Farnsfield ward for the Conservatives, is the chairman of the committee which oversees fraud prevention.

He said: “It is well known that funding for local authorities has been reducing in recent years, while the demand for our services – particularly social care for children, older people and people with disabilities – continues to increase.

“So it’s more vital than ever that we do everything to protect the money we have available to direct at frontline services.

“Anyone committing fraud against the council is committing fraud against every resident of Nottinghamshire because, ultimately, it deprives us of the public services we all pay for.

“It is something we take extremely seriously and local people should feel reassured that we are constantly striving to prevent, detect and confront fraud head-on.

“The £230,000 of fraud is a tiny proportion of the £1bn the council spends in providing services every year, but we will not be complacent.

“Every pound taken away fraudulently from providing important services is a pound too many and we will continue to take a zero tolerance stance against it.”

Almost a quarter of a million pounds worth of fraud was caught and stopped at Nottinghamshire County Council last year.

A wide range of fraud was identified, from sophisticated and organised scammers to misuse of blue disabled parking badges.

There were 13 cases of direct payments from the council being abused, to a total value of £43,280.

In three of these cases, the council has begun reclaiming the money back, and police have been informed.

The most common type of fraud investigated is known as deprivation of assets. This is where people fail to declare financial assets  to increase the chances of the taxpayer funding their social care.

Of the 151 cases investigated last year, 91 involved deprivation of assets fraud, and has meant that the council saved £94,188, because it did not make the social care payments incorrectly.

Parking wardens sent out warning letters to 10 people they believe they were using blue badges fraudulently last year.

While there is an overall trend upwards, there was a slight reduction in 2017/18 compared to the year before, when there were 162 fraud cases investigated.

The council’s annual anti-fraud report says there is a wide range of measures in place, both in terms of deterring fraud in the first place, and catching out fraudsters when crimes are committed.

Nationally, fraud against local councils is estimated to cost £2.1bn every year.

Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service