14:49 GMT +319 August 2019
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    Malmö, Sweden

    Scammers Gonna Scam: Sweden Sees Big Rise in Benefit Fraud

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    Sweden's generosity in humanitarian issues has become world-famous. The Nordic nation of only 10 million has for decades been one of the world's largest contributors to international relief efforts. At home, however, Sweden's bigheartedness is often abused.

    Malmö Insurance Agency is now trying to reclaim 1.7 million SEK (some $200,000) in grants distributed to an immigrant woman despite the fact that she moved back to Algeria years ago, Swedish news outlet Fria Tider reported.

    The Social Insurance Agency became suspicious of the woman when her children were not present at the start of the 2014 school year. The subsequent investigation shows that both she and her children have been residing in their home country of Algeria for years, after their father was deported in 2003.

    Despite her absence, the woman continued picking up a fairly generous Swedish benefits cocktail consisting of, among other, parental benefits, child benefits, maintenance support and housing support, Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reported.

    According to Sydsvenskan, the Insurance Agency is now seeking to reclaim 1.7 million SEK that was wrongly paid.

    The flow of benefits to the woman stopped in early 2015, when she was deregistered as a Swedish resident by the Swedish Tax Agency.

    Sweden, which in the decades after World War II evolved into an egalitarian welfare state, has seen a dramatic rise in benefit fraud and economic crime. During the recent ten year period, reported fraud crime has more than tripled. In 2015, approximately 185,000 fraud offences were reported, as well as 10,300 welfare benefit offences, Sweden's Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) reported. According to Brå, 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.

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

    A view of buildings in Stockholm's Oestermalm
    © AFP 2019 / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND
    Neither the agency itself nor Brå believe that people are cheating more, but rather that the agency has gotten better at unearthing cheating.

    Benefit fraud costs the Swedish state an estimated 1 billion SEK per year ($120 million). The most frequent form of cheating pertains to child care benefits. Other common forms of cheating include child allowances, sickness benefits, attendance allowances for people with disabilities to be able to hire a personal assistant, and maintenance support for low-income parents in certain situations.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

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    welfare state, crime, fraud, benefits, Scandinavia, Sweden
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