Crap at Photoshop? Don't try to defraud the government

Photoshop used for $10.5 billion of benefit fraud
(Image credit: Department of Work and Pensions)

Approximately $2.4 billion (£2 billion / AU$3.5 billion) in fraudulent benefit claims was spotted by the British government last year, thanks to ludicrously bad attempts to use Photoshop by claimants. 

While overall benefit fraud is estimated to have cost British taxpayers $10.5 billion (£8 billion / AU$14.9 billion), the UK's Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was able to spot around 172,000 fraudulent claims – mainly because the scammers' skills at photo manipulation would have been more at home in Microsoft Paint.

• These fraudsters should learn some Photoshop tips and tutorials next time

With so many fraudsters trying to claim UK benefits while living overseas, the SWP began asking suspicious claimants to submit a photograph of them standing outside their UK place of residence. 

See more

Some of the "proof" provided was beyond laughable, as scammers would use images taken from Google Street View and crudely paste cutout images of themselves into the scene – with some truly hilarious results. 

Highlights, some of which are included in this article, include people leaving the "Google" watermark on their images. Others feature people floating in the air, not even touching the ground, such is the pathetic attempt to paste them into the picture, and one particularly egregious edit features a purple-panted fraudster with their legs disappearing into the windshield of a car.

Yes, this is real (well, it isn't, more's the point) (Image credit: Department of Work and Pensions)

According to a report by The Times, which broke the story, staff at the Counter Fraud, Compliance and Debt Directorate believe that the widespread photo manipulation fraud is the result of organized crime gangs. 

"During the last two years the team have received thousands of manipulated and constructed documents to try and pursue claims whilst being abroad," said a member of the Directorate. 

It doesn't take "skilled fraud officers" to spot this hilariously poor Photoshop job (Image credit: Department of Work and Pensions)

"Once this pattern is identified, the fraud officers very quickly share this intelligence with other offices across the country to make sure that if any more of these photographs are supplied that they know are part of the same batch of claimants.

"These skilled fraud officers can quickly detect and prevent and repair any fraud area that's emerging and they have to be much more experienced looking at these fraud trends."

So first of all, if you're planning to fraudulently claim benefits… don't. Second of all, if you're going to try to rip off the taxpayer with faked photos, at least have the decency to learn how to use Photoshop first. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.