A mother pictured drawing at home with her sick child. Parents who stay home from work to be with a sick child can collect the VAB benefit, but the social insurance agency reports that many cheat when claiming this benefit. File photo: JESSICA GOW / TT

Social Insurance Agency uncovers more cheating

"It could be that your neighbor calls us and says you've cheated"
6:32 min

The number of reported crimes against the Swedish Social Insurance Agency climbed by 71 percent last year, compared to the year before, reports Swedish Radio News.

Neither the agency nor the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention believe that people are cheating more, but rather that the agency has gotten better at discovering cases of cheating.

Niklas Löfgren, a spokesperson for the agency in Stockholm, told Radio Sweden, that the agency has been more successful in detecting cases of fraud because it has gotten more efficient in carrying out checks.

"We also do more smarter controls, that have data mining behind it, where we manage to catch more criminals," Löfgren said.

According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), more than 9,000 cases of benefit fraud were reported in 2015, and more than half of these cases concerned the fleecing of the social insurance agency, which saw 2,300 more reported cases last year than in 2014.

"What we can see is that the number of reports varies a lot from year to year, and this has to do with the fact that benefit fraud is a crime that is extremely dependent on the efforts of the agency that's paying out the benefits to check out the claims," Johanna Skinnar, an investigator at Brå, told Swedish Radio News.

When the social insurance agency puts more focus on checking claims, they find more crimes, Skinnar reasons.

Benefit fraud costs the state an estimated SEK 1 billion per year. The most frequent form of cheating pertains to the VAB (vård av barn) benefit, which allows someone to stay home to care for a sick child. Other common forms of cheating target the child allowance, the sickness benefit, the attendance allowance for people with disabilities to be able to hire a personal assistant, and maintenance support for low-income parents in certain situations.

Every year, the social insurance agency gets in between 7,000 and 8,000 tips from the public about suspected benefit fraud, but the agency does not want to talk about how they go about uncovering the cheating. 

Thomas Falk, a head of unit at the social insurance agency, says that they are not allowed to carry out active surveillance, but that they do pose questions to the employer afterwards, to make sure the claim is valid.

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