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 (opens in new tab) 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.
As a civilised society we will always support the vulnerable. But for those who seek to abuse the system, we have a blunt message. We will find you and you will face the full force of the law. Read about our work to stop fraudsters in the Times: https://t.co/WiJwSph4QgJanuary 22, 2023
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.
According to a report by The Times (opens in new tab), 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.
"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.