Social Insurance Agency

Welfare fraud complaints often dismissed

"Difficult to see other neighbors who have things better"
2:45 min

Thousands of Swedes a year report their neighbors or people they know to the Social Insurance Agency because they think they are commiting welfare fraud. But the vast majority of these cases are dropped because they are groundless and often based on gossip and rumors.

Nearly half of the 20,000 complaints of welfare fraud last year were filed by the public. But the Social Insurance Agency dismissed a wopping 90 percent of them, according to Metro.

Linda Olofsson, at the Social Insurance Agency, says many people file complaints, for example, that a person is getting sick leave benefits even though they have a job or are working out in the garden. But she says most of these complaints are based on rumor or gossip.

"We can quickly rule out a claim if we find the person in our register and if we can't find that person at all then we dismiss the claim. In many cases, even if we can identify the person, we find out that they don't get any benefits so there's no reason to continue the investigation," Olofsson tells Radio Sweden.

Despite the nearly 20,000 reported cases of fraud last year, Olofsson says they suspect that only around 300 people committed fraud in 2012.

Olofsson says, "Most people want to do the right thing and there are some who make a mistake because they were sloppy or misunderstand the instructions. And then there's a small group of people where we strongly suspect of committing a crime."

The statistics show that the general public is not very good at picking out fraudsters; why are so many people tattletaling on neighbors and acquaintances?

Jonas Gåde, a cognitive therapist who worked with a tv program called Grannfejden about neighbors who quarrel, says it could partly be cultural. "We have difficulties to see other neighbors that have things better," he says.

And Gåde says another element at work here is that some people tend to project their own problems and issues onto others.

Meanwhile, the Social Insurance Agency says it has to investigate each and every case of alleged fraud they recieve. But they stress that they do not actively work to get in tips from the public.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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