PHANTOM singletons are set to cost taxpayers more than £10 million-per-week in overpayments, shock figures show.
Ghost claims will balloon to an estimated £580 million within two years for couples who claim to be living apart – but have set up with a partner.
But the bogus singles were last year paid £95 million in Universal Credit, £55 million in housing benefit and £6 million in Jobseeker’s Allowance.
There were also payments for £25 million in Employment and Support Allowance and a further £18 million in Pension Credit, government figures show.
Couples who claim to live in separate homes, often pretending their relationship has broken down, can rake in thousands of pounds in fraudulent payments.
It is due to cost taxpayers £350 million this year.
‘ABSURDITIES IN WELFARE SYSTEM’
Duncan Simpson, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “These highlight absurdities in the welfare system.
“Some people will always be looking good to game the system, and that is made far easier when the referee makes the rules so unnecessarily complex.
“The government needs to prevent cheating but they can make that far easier by simplifying the benefits bill.”
Recent examples of this fraud that have come to court include mum-of-two Debbie Bowler.
She was paid £30,000 in benefits but was found to have flown off on holiday with the children’s dad for a month-long trip in Australia.
Bowler, 41, of Colne, Lancs, had told the authorities that she lived alone but later admitted her partner stayed in the home three nights a week, although they slept apart.
‘ERROR IS LOW’
She admitted fraud and was ordered to do community service and pay back the cash.
Diana Young, 59, fraudulently claimed almost £30,000 in benefits by saying she lived alone in a home in Hull.
However, she was unwittingly unmasked herself when she and her partner put in a joint application for tax credits.
She admitted fraud and was given a suspended jail sentence.
Many of the bogus payouts are believed to start life as genuine claims, but then as a person’s personal circumstances change and a partner moves in, they fail to notify the authorities.
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The most recent estimates suggest that £2.3billion in benefits was fraudulently claimed in the last year – more than £6million every day.
On top of this another £1.8billion was paid out in error – meaning fraud and error accounted for £4.1billion of last year’s total £184billion benefit bill.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Nearly 97 per cent of benefits are paid correctly so fraud and error is low. We work hard to sort out fraud and error overpayments, recovering more than a billion pounds last year.”
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