Benefit cheats to face 'lie detectors'

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Lie detector tests are to be used by officials as part of a new government effort to clamp down on suspected benefit fraudsters.

Use of the special "voice-risk analysis" software will initially be piloted by a north London local authority to identify fraudulent housing benefit and council tax claims, work and pensions secretary John Hutton has announced.

Mr Hutton has stressed that the technology, which will be trialled by Harrow Council, will also help speed up the claims process for honest benefit claimants.

The introduction of the new software marks the latest stage in the government's fight against benefit fraud, which has already been reduced from around £2 billion in 2001 to an estimated £0.7 billion in 2005/06, according to official figures.

Under the new system, council staff will be able to use the technology to try and detect possible fraudulent claims when they are initially made.

The software, which is already used by the insurance industry to detect bogus claims, works by analysing changes in a caller's voice to determine whether they may be lying.

When benefit claimants initially call officials, the normal

characteristics of their voice will be recorded to provide a benchmark against which to measure changes in the tone of their voice which might indicate that their answers are suspicious.

The software reportedly performs thousands of mathematical calculations after detecting changes in voice frequency, subsequently identifying different types of emotional content to determine which callers are genuine claimants.

Benefit staff will be able to request further information from claimants if they view their answers as suspicious based upon the data provided by the software.

Commenting on the trial of the software, Mr Hutton said: "This technology aims to tackle fraudsters while speeding up claims and improving customer service for the honest majority."

"Our investigators are successfully using sophisticated 21st century techniques to stop criminals. The introduction of this cutting-edge technology will be another weapon in the battle against benefit fraud," he added.

News of the software follows an announcement by the Department of Work

and Pensions earlier this week which pledged to provide £32 million worth of funding to support schemes in local areas to help people off benefits and back into employment.

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