U.K. offering bounty to uncover welfare fraud

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: The British government has unveiled a new crackdown on welfare fraud. Like many European countries, the U.K. is struggling under massive budget cuts. And now to find millions of dollars in lost revenue, the Brits plan to use bounty hunters to track down welfare cheats. From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: We're not talking here about gunslingers for hire, like in the Wild West. But this is a break with British tradition. Under the plan, credit-reporting companies will receive a bounty for every case of welfare fraud they uncover. The companies will be allowed to trawl through government databases, and they'll be able to check some details of household spending.

Opponents of the measure say it looks like an invasion of privacy. and that bounty hunting is un-British. But Matthew Sinclair, who campaigns on behalf of taxpayers, welcomes the move:

Matthew Sinclair: Getting the private sector involved in an area where the public sector, the government, has always struggled to effectively police benefit fraud is extremely good news. I don't think it can be acceptable for so much money to be lost.

The government estimates that welfare cheats rip off almost $8 billion a year -- enough to run more than 200 high schools and hire an extra 150,000 nurses.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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