France is cracking down on serious benefit fraud with a new nationwide team of ‘super checkers’ who will track down intentionally fraudulent claimants.
The new team will be made up of former tax agents and ex-private detectives.
The Cnaf (La caisse nationale des allocations familiales) confirmed on June 17 that it is creating new teams of ‘super checkers’ in Lille, Strasbourg, Melun, Toulon and Bordeaux.
There will be 30 personnel tasked with cracking down on the most serious fraud, such as that committed by organised groups or across several departments.
The 101 Cnaf offices across France already have 680 checkers whose role it is to detect errors (genuine mistakes made in good faith) and intentional fraud.
However, the director general of the Cnaf, Vincent Mazauric, said at a press conference yesterday: “We have judged it useful to have an extra taskforce, which is more specialised, and capable of acting across departmental lines.”
The new staff will be authorised and enabled to detect 'high-stakes fraud', and 'sophisticated' operations.
These will include those committed “in an organised gang...often on a scale larger than the department”. These crimes tend to be intentional and premeditated, rather than due to “situational opportunism”, the Cnaf said.
These might include people who use false identities to collect benefits across several departments. For example, one fraudster was recently found to have collected 54 Cnaf payments out of the 101 nationwide offices.
There are also criminals who claim to ‘work for’ genuine claimants, and encourage them to apply for extra benefit, from which they then take an illegal ‘commission’.
The new taskforce will also include specialised housing inspectors to take action against unscrupulous landlords who buy poor-quality properties at low prices and rent them out to vulnerable people who pay with housing benefits.
The Cnaf is entitled to suspend payments in such cases when the housing conditions are found to be unfit for human habitation, to “stop the spiral that the landlord benefits from,” Mr Mazauric said.
In 2020, Cnaf fraud teams identified 36,917 fraudulent cases amounting to €255.5 million, it said in an update yesterday (June 17).
This amounted to a drop of 21% compared to 2019; but this was likely due to a “temporary suspension of checking operations” because of the Covid-19 health crisis, rather than because fraud had significantly dropped, the Cnaf said.