How The UK Government Uses Artificial Intelligence To Identify Welfare And State Benefits Fraud

Investment in data strategy, technologies that support machine learning and artificial intelligence, and hiring skilled data professionals is a top priority …

Investment in data strategy, technologies that support machine learning and artificial intelligence, and hiring skilled data professionals is a top priority for the UK government. Ministers of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have rolled out and tested AI to automate claims processing and fight fraud within their department. Over the last year, the department unleashed artificial intelligence algorithms to track down large-scale corruption of the benefit and welfare program to stop criminal gangs who are responsible for extremely large losses. Ultimately, this effort protects taxpayers’ money and gets the benefits to those who they are intended for.

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AI Identifies Large-Scale Abuse of the Benefits System

Benefit fraud at the hands of criminal gangs cost the Department of Work and Pensions nearly £2.1 billion in 2016, a rise of £200 million in just one year. The losses to fraud equate to the entire budget of the Foreign Office, which is £1.1 billion annually. To combat this crime, ministers have launched Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect fraudulent claims. The algorithms look for patterns in claims such as the same phone number or applications written in the same style. Once a claim is flagged as suspicious, a human investigator takes over to determine if the claim is in fact fraudulent.

AI identifies possible issues faster than human investigators who in the past would have to assess every claim. Therefore, until recently, the department was focused on stopping individual benefit fraud and investigated people who were flagged as being suspicious at job centers. However, it’s the large-scale efforts by criminal gangs that contributes the bulk of the issue. By deploying AI, billions of items of data can be quickly reviewed, fake identity cloning techniques commonly used by fraudsters are detected and the claim payments can be stopped.

Artificial intelligence algorithms are also used to scour social media accounts to uncover inconsistencies in the stories people tell on social media and the claims they are making for benefits. Lavish holiday parties are a red flag if you’re claiming unemployment benefits. Going on a cross-country race is not congruent with someone who receives disability benefits. If you claim single status and you post pictures of your wedding or spouse, it’s suspicious to the AI algorithms.

The DWP tested the algorithms extensively and the algorithms can even scan across the benefit system including Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Personal Independent Systems making it even more robust.

The UK’s Commitment to Artificial Intelligence and Data Technologies

It’s clear from the Industrial Strategy the UK government, that it’s not just one department that is committed to expanding its technology prowess, it’s a priority for the UK government in its entirety. The strategy said the UK government is committed to investments in innovation to make “the country the world’s most innovative nation by 2030.” Prime Minister Theresa May said the strategy will help businesses seize the big opportunities of our day, “such as artificial intelligence and big data.” Artificial Intelligence is one of the four grand challenges outlined in the strategy to “put the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution.”

AI Can Bring Major Social and Economic Impacts to UK

In a report about the artificial intelligence industry in the UK, the government sees a bright future ahead and possibilities for major social and economic benefits from the technology. By 2035, it’s estimated that AI could add an additional £630 billion to the UK economy.

This future will be realized, according to the report, only if AI continues to be developed and applied. This review recommends increased access to data in a wider range of sectors, to develop a larger workforce with deep AI expertise as well as continued UK commitment to AI research. In addition, the growth of AI directly relates to an increased understanding of what AI can do and where it could be applied.

While the prevention and recovery of unlawful benefits payouts is showing promise in the Department of Work and Pensions, there are many other AI applications in the works including the automatic processing of 42% of documentation submitted with benefits claims. As other departments and businesses integrate AI into existing processes and begin to realize the massive efficiencies, boost to performance and better decision-making due to more accurate information, AI adoption will continue to increase.

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Handwriting to help Govt catch gangs behind mass-scale benefit fraud

Artificial intelligence is going to be used to clamp down on cheats claiming bogus benefit payments worth millions of pounds. 05:32, UK … The connections are buried in billions of files, and it is thought the intelligent computer software will be able to increase prosecutions for whole groups of gangs.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said its new state-of-the-art algorithms can detect a number of identity cloning techniques which have been commonly used by organised criminal gangs committing mass-scale benefit fraud.

Under the system, investigators will be alerted to fraudsters who use the same phone number or a similar writing style while filling out different false claims.

The connections are buried in billions of files, and it is thought the intelligent computer software will be able to increase prosecutions for whole groups of gangs.

Currently, investigators target individual criminals after Jobcentre Plus workers raise concerns.

New technology can detect benefit fraud by identifying similar styles of handwriting
Image:New technology can detect benefit fraud by identifying similar styles of handwriting

The DWP says it has extensively trialled the technology, which will scan across the benefit system, including Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Personal Independent Payments.

Last year, about 5,000 people were prosecuted for benefit fraud and a record £1.1bn in overpaid benefits was recovered.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, David Gauke, said: “We are committed to tackling benefit fraud, especially from organised crime gangs, because it diverts money from the people who really need it.

“Our fraud investigators work tirelessly to bring criminals to justice and this is just one of the latest and innovative ways we are using cutting-edge technology to protect taxpayer’s money.”

Image:Connections between fraudsters are buried in billions of data files

In November, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £75m in funding for artificial intelligence.

Much of the investment will support start-up firms and raise the number of new PhD students in the field to 200 a year.

Funding will also reportedly go towards an advisory body to lift barriers to AI development.

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Artificial intelligence is being used to find benefit fraudsters

Artificial intelligence is to be used to hunt down and expose benefit fraudsters who cheat taxpayers of millions of pounds. The ‘smart robot’ investigators – high-tech computer programs – will be set to work to thwart mass benefit fraudsters. Ministers unveiled the move last night, boasting that the …
  • Artificial intelligence is being used to find benefit fraudsters
  • Ministers said it would detect identity cloning techniques and organised gangs
  • Benefit fraud is running at record levels of £2.1 billion a year

ByBrendan Carlin for The Mail on Sunday

Published: 00:56 GMT, 31 December 2017 | Updated: 02:04 GMT, 31 December 2017

Artificial intelligence is to be used to hunt down and expose benefit fraudsters who cheat taxpayers of millions of pounds.

The ‘smart robot’ investigators – high-tech computer programs – will be set to work to thwart mass benefit fraudsters.

Ministers unveiled the move last night, boasting that the sophisticated computer algorithms will detect fake identity cloning techniques and unmask organised gangs – not just individual benefit cheats.

The ‘smart robot’ investigators – high-tech computer programs – will be set to work to thwart mass benefit fraudsters (image taken from I, Robot film)

The ‘smart robot’ investigators – high-tech computer programs – will be set to work to thwart mass benefit fraudsters (image taken from I, Robot film)

The ‘smart robot’ investigators – high-tech computer programs – will be set to work to thwart mass benefit fraudsters (image taken from I, Robot film)

Critics said the new AI crackdown was long overdue, with benefit fraud running at record levels of nearly £2.1 billion a year.

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said the new technology was being introduced to ‘protect taxpayers’ money’.

He added: ‘We are already dealing with individuals who are wrongly claiming welfare payments and we now hope to further clamp down on organised crime gangs. Our fraud investigators work tirelessly to bring all criminals to justice.’

Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials said the computer systems were designed to enable specialist investigators to progress from catching individual benefit cheats to snaring entire gangs.

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said the new technology was being introduced to ‘protect taxpayers’ money’

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said the new technology was being introduced to ‘protect taxpayers’ money’

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said the new technology was being introduced to ‘protect taxpayers’ money’

They cited a case where a six-strong gang behind a £2.8 million benefit fraud, involving falsely obtained National Insurance numbers to claim handouts over seven years, was brought to justice last year. The gang was not caught by the use of AI, officials said, but was the sort of organised crime that should be exposed by the new technology.

The computer programs search for anomalies in billions of items of data.

Fraudsters who share a seemingly innocuous connection – such as the same phone number or similar handwriting when filling out different false claims – would be flagged up by the new technology.

The programs will scan right across the benefit system, including the controversial new Universal Credit as well as Jobseeker’s Allowance and the Personal Independent Payments.

Department officials insisted last night that the new computer checks posed no privacy problems.

One said: ‘It won’t go through Facebook pages and so on, but through DWP claims systems so there are no privacy concerns. It will also just be trained investigators who use it.’

They also insisted there was no extra cost because the new anti-fraud detection system had been developed and set up by the DWP’s own artificial intelligence team.

The new crackdown comes just weeks after it emerged that benefit fraud was running at the equivalent of £40 million a week, swallowing up almost £2.1 billion of the DWP’s annual budget of £174 billion.

The DWP said part of the reason reported fraud had risen was because of better detection.

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Ministers use artificial intelligence to target mass benefit fraud

Criminal gangs committing tens of millions of pounds worth of benefit fraud are being tracked down using newly-developed artificial intelligence, ministers have disclosed. Experts at the Department for Work and Pensions have produced computer algorithms that have been gradually rolled-out over the …

Fraud swallowed up almost £2.1 billion of the department’s total budget of £174 billion – the equivalent of £40 million per week.

The figures mean that the DWP now loses almost twice as much money to fraud as the entire budget of the Foreign Office, which is £1.1 billion per year.

MPs warned that Mr Gauke had “questions to answer” over why the figures have gone up despite repeated assurances that they would be brought under control.

The DWP claimed part of the reason fraud had gone up was because of better methods of gathering information on it.

Around 5,000 individuals were prosecuted for benefit fraud last year, with officials recovering £1.1bn in overpaid benefits.

The announcement about the use of AI to help tackle fraud follows the publication of a Government-commissioned report in October which found that artificial intelligence could add £630 billion to the UK economy.

The economic boost would come from a combination of more personalised services, improvements in health care and adopting machine learning to find ways to use resources more efficiently, according to the report.

To see that gain, the UK needed to do more to encourage businesses to deploy machine learning and artificial intelligence, it concluded.

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