Voice recognition scheme traps benefit scammers

Harrow Council has saved some £330,000 by using voice recognition technology to root out benefit cheats.

The Voice Risk Analysis technology detects stress patterns in people’s voices, recognising hesitation and identifying when callers change their answers to put themselves in a better light.

Harrow Council said its 'lie detector' technology has saved it £336,711 in benefit payouts, managing to stop 43 incorrect payments, Silicon.com reports.

High risk

Some 12 per cent of the claimants assessed (119) were classified by the system as at ‘high risk’ of dishonesty. A total of 43 of those were found to be receiving incorrectly paid benefits after further investigation by the council’s benefits fraud team.

After being investigated, the circumstances of more than a quarter of previous claimants mysteriously changed to no longer requiring benefits. This figure is twice the normal rate of such admissions.

"[The scheme] is ensuring that we are paying the right people the right benefit entitlement and we are paying them quicker. We have had a huge increase in the number of people coming forward and saying 'my income has gone up' or 'my rent has decreased'," Griselda Colvin, head of benefits at Harrow Council, told Silicon.com.

"I would say it is the technology and the threat of the system that has given us the results."

Pilot scheme

Twelve other UK councils – Birmingham, Chester-le-Street, Coventry, Derwentside, Durham, Edinburgh, Hinckley and Bosworth, Lambeth, Rochford, Sedgefield, Warwick, and Wealden – are also testing the technology.

The pilot scheme is being run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). A DWP spokeswoman told us that the scheme would be fully evaluated when it finishes in May. She said if proven successful, the scheme "may be rolled out across the rest of the country".

Benefit fraud cost the government around £700 million last year.