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1,500 quizzed over benefits

Dartford Civic Centre, in Home Gardens, DartfordMore than 1,500 benefit fraudsters may have been uncovered by council investigators.

Detailed inquiries have been going on into more than 18,000 people who claim housing and council tax benefits from Dartford council.

So far the investigators have identified 69 people falsely claiming lower tax.

Another 17 people – all council tenants – may be fiddling their housing benefit.

Already the council should be able to raise an extra £29,000 in council tax from fraudulent claimants and the full scale of the fiddles is not yet known.

A report to the council’s audit committee reveals the four-month investigation is continuing.

There are 13,981 people who have been claiming tax discounts as single people.

A further 4,308 were under investigation for potential council tenancy fraud. Of these, the vast majority were legitimate, but 92 cases needed further investigation.

The investigations began after the council became able to match their records with credit reference data held by private companies.

Separate reports into both the housing benefit and council tax frauds are set to be discussed tonight.

The agency carrying out the assessments found 3,294 tax claims about which they were suspicious.

The council’s anti-fraud team found many of the apparent frauds were because residents had failed to update all their records.

It still left about 1,500 people who are continuing to be investigated for tax fraud.

In the past year, seven fraud cases were taken to court. They involved £226,558.08 in benefit overpayments.

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