Cifas Homepage
NewsroomCareersContact Us

Newsroom

1 in 10 Brits know someone defrauding public purse

24 February 2022

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is urging Brits to report fraud committed against the public purse as new research reveals 1 in 10 people know someone dishonestly claiming a discount on their Council Tax Bill.

Current rules mean any household with only one adult living at the address can claim a 25% discount on their Council Tax Bill. In a poll of 2,000 UK adults, 1 in 10 people admitted to knowing someone who had falsely claimed this discount over the last 12 months, with this figure rising to almost 1 in 6 in London.

Additionally, 10% of the adults surveyed didn’t view falsely claiming Single Person Discount as illegal, while 1 in 13 believed it was a ‘reasonable’ thing to do. These findings were also amplified in the Greater London region, with 1 in 7 (15%) viewing this as ‘reasonable’ and 1 in 6 not viewing the action as illegal.

Research carried out by the Institute for Government1 revealed Local Authorities’ spending power fell by 16% between 2010 and 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a further £11.9bn financial burden. This means any fraud committed against councils reduces their ability to fund many of the services residents rely upon.

With council tax bills due to be sent out next month, Cifas is urging people that are aware of someone defrauding the council to speak up and report those stealing from the public purse.

Commenting on the findings, Cifas’ Director of Public Sector, Rachael Tiffen, said: ‘The economic impact of the pandemic has put significant strain on council budgets. The fraudulent abuse of schemes designed to help those in need unnecessarily restricts funding for many of the services residents rely upon daily.

‘Rises in the cost of living may be forcing people to look for ways to save money on their household bills. However, defrauding councils, or any organisation, is never okay and shouldn’t be viewed as a way to cut outgoings.

‘Fraud in both the public and private sector is a serious issue and poses a threat to national security. The public are rightly outraged by the widespread fraudulent abuse of COVID-19 loans and grants, however this research suggests more common abuses of public funds aren’t viewed with the same level of dismay.’

Gemma Young, Head of Internal Audit & Anti-Fraud at Waltham Forest & Enfield Councils, said: ‘Fraud against councils is never acceptable. It is not a victimless crime - the impact is often felt most keenly by the most vulnerable. This kind of fraud preys on funds that are meant for public services and to support the local community.

‘The annual loss from fraud to councils is estimated to be £2.1bn, with the largest loss from housing tenancy fraud. Reducing fraud is one way in which councils can make real savings and help those who are genuinely in need.

‘Many councils have successful dedicated and accredited investigation teams and have powers available to investigate and prosecute offenders, as well as recovering the proceeds of crime.

‘Don’t ignore it if you suspect a fraud against your council. You can report it anonymously through their website.’

Notes to Editors

Methodology 

The survey was carried out by Opinion Matters on behalf of Cifas with a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults between 4-8 October 2021. The research outlined ten scenarios of an individual committing first-party fraud, asking respondents to respond anonymously as to how reasonable the actions of the individual were, whether they were acting illegally, and whether they, or someone they know, has committed the same actions in the last 12 months.  

Survey Results 

When presented with a scenario of someone knowingly falsely claiming a Single Person Discount: 

Question: ‘How reasonable or unreasonable would you view [this person’s] behaviour to be?’ 

All responses 

Total responses 

2000 

Score indicating ‘reasonableness’ 

163 (8.2% / 1 in 13) 

Region 

Percentage viewing as ‘reasonable’ 

Greater London 

15.0% (1 in 7) 

North-West 

13.2% (1 in 8) 

West Midlands 

13.1% (1 in 8) 

Yorkshire and Humber 

9.9% (1 in 11) 

North-East 

7.0% (1 in 15) 

South-East 

5.5% (1 in 19) 

Wales 

5.2% (1 in 20) 

Scotland 

4.8% (1 in 21) 

South-West 

4.5% (1 in 23) 

East Midlands 

4.1% (1 in 25) 

East of England 

3.2% (1 in 31) 

Northern Ireland 

2.5% (1 in 40) 

 

Question: ‘Do you believe [this person’s] behaviour is illegal’ 

All responses 

Total responses 

2000 

Score not indicating the behaviour was illegal 

210 (10.5% / 1 in 10) 

Region 

Percentage not viewing as illegal 

Greater London 

19.6% (1 in 6) 

West Midlands 

12.5% (1 in 8) 

Yorkshire and Humber 

12.3% (1 in 9) 

East of England  

10.8% (1 in 10) 

Wales 

10.4% (1 in 10) 

North-West 

10.0% (1 in 10) 

North-East 

9.3% (1 in 11) 

South-East  

9.1% (1 in 11) 

Northern Ireland 

7.5% (1 in 14) 

South-West 

7.3% (1 in 14) 

East Midlands  

5.5% (1 in 19) 

Scotland 

4.2% (1 in 24) 

 

Question: ‘Have you or anyone you know done this over the last 12 months?’ 

All ages  

Total responses 

2000 

‘Yes – I know someone else who has done this’ 

192 (9.6% / 1 in 11) 

Region 

Percentage knowing someone who has falsely claimed SPD 

Greater London 

17.3% (1 in 6) 

West Midlands 

11.4% (1 in 9) 

Wales 

10.4% (1 in 10) 

East of England 

10.2% (1 in 10) 

North-West 

10.0% (1 in 10) 

Northern Ireland 

10.0% (1 in 10) 

East Midlands 

9.0% (1 in 12) 

Yorkshire and Humber 

7.6% (1 in 14) 

South-East  

7.3% (1 in 14) 

Scotland 

6.5% (1 in 16) 

South-West 

6.1% (1 in 17) 

North-East 

4.7% (1 in 22) 

 

About Cifas 

Cifas is the UK’s fraud prevention service. We lead the fight against fraud by sharing data, intelligence and learning. The organisations that collaborate with us are drawn from all sectors, working together to stop fraud. 

About Opinion Matters 

Opinion Matters is an independent market research agency that create bespoke market research solutions for businesses, organisations, and agencies worldwide.  Opinion Matters abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. 

Further information

For further information, please contact:

Matt Pearson, Press & PR Manager
matthew.pearson@cifas.org.uk
+44 (0)20 4551 7956

Share:
Posted by: Cifas Press Team
PREVIOUS ARTICLENEXT ARTICLE

1 in 12 Brits have lied about qualifications on a CV

8 March 2022

Cifas’ research reveals the shocking level of CV fraud in the UK; only one in three would report a colleague if they found out.

CONTINUE READING

Fortnightly Fraud Focus - Criminals set to exploit surge in cost of living

18 February 2022

Cifas is highlighting the latest fraud threats, and warning the public to stay vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using to extract money and information.

CONTINUE READING
Back to newsroom >
Posted by: Cifas Press Team

Contact us at press@cifas.org.uk

Categories