Dutch government scans Twitter, Facebook to crack down on welfare fraud

Dutch government scans Twitter, Facebook to crack down on welfare fraud

Dutch authorities in the Netherlands have begun using social networks such as Twitter, Facebook to crack down on suspected welfare cheats.

Ten Dutch municipalities assigned local teams to detect welfare fraudsters through social media. The municipalities are working with a specialist Amsterdam research firm, using the type of computer software previously deployed only in counter terrorism, monitoring Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin for keywords and cross-referencing any suspicious information with digital lists of social welfare recipients.

If the automated software finds a match between one of these suspicious keywords and a person claiming social welfare payments, the information is passed on to investigators to gather real-life evidence.

The researchers examined one hundred cases of people on welfare or have had, and refused to repay a debt to the municipality and whose whereabouts was unknown. Social media, in many of the cases reveal the suspect’s whereabouts and what they spend their money on.

So far, says Wilfred van Roij, founder of the research company Com-Connect Digitale Opsporing, 70 per cent of cases investigated have uncovered fraud, generating significant savings for local authorities and significant penalties for the perpetrators.

On social networks like Twitter and Facebook there is always useful information to be found, according to Roij. “They do not even have to blog or write themselves,” says the researcher in the newspaper. “It could also be the neighbor who says that the other has bought a brand new car.

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