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Benefits fraud on the rise, Kela reports

Proportionally, social benefits abuse levels are quite low but still amount to nearly 10 million euros per year.

Kela takaisinperintäkirje
Social insurance institution Kela handed out a total of 14.3 million euros in benefits last year. Image: Yle

There has been an increase in the abuse of social benefits in Finland in recent years, according to the country's social insurance institution Kela.

The benefits agency said that every year it sees around 2,000 cases in which unemployment benefits or other financial support was handed out to applicants that did not have the right to them.

While a few of the cases amounted to as much as 20,000-32,000 euros per year, fraudulent applications for lower amounts are more common, amounting to nearly 10 million euros annually, according to Suvi Onninen from Kela’s legal department.

In 2016, Kela uncovered 1,953 cases of benefits taken inappropriately, while last year there were 2,344 such cases. The most common fraudulent claims are made by those seeking unemployment benefits, according to the agency.

Mostly smaller amounts

Most of the cases are sums between a few hundred or one thousand euros, but every year there are about a dozen individuals who try to deceive the benefits agency out of tens of thousands, according to Onninen.

However, while fraudulent cases appear to be rising, they only made up a small fraction of the 14.3 billion euros which Kela handed out last year. Around 9.6 million euros was incorrectly given to individuals who did not have the legal right to receive them last year, according to Kela statistics.

Cases of social support fraud are usually uncovered with help from authorities like the Tax Administration. Onninen said the national Incomes Register database, which launched at the beginning of the year and operated by the tax office, will increase Kela’s abilities to find cheaters, too.

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