Families who got weekly shopping from foodbank revealed in Milton Keynes report into rising risks of fraud
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But among the more minor allegations that Milton Keynes Council investigated from April to November, which included the first lockdown, were 12 reports of overuse of the foodbank.
The council helped the foodbank provide thousands of vital meals to struggling families during the lockdown, but 12 individuals were reported for going too far.
“Advice was given to all 12 individuals about the charity and their circumstances and five were refused further support,” said the report to Wednesday’s meeting of the audit committee.
“Five lots of family weekly shopping was stopped in order to prioritise those in genuine need,” said the report from the council’s chief internal auditor, Duncan Wilkinson.
Covid has opened up new opportunities for fraudsters, including in the council’s hard pressed revenues and benefits department, the meeting heard.
With some 18 covid-related business grants being administered, the fraud spotters blocked £140,000 from being paid out in dodgy company claims.
A national scam, where fraudsters pretended to represent a branded bakery chain, was also blocked in Milton Keynes, saving £100,000 from being paid out.
Three more applicants applied for funds when they weren’t not entitled.
In response to rising pressures, Mr Wilkinson said they have taken a “defensive” approach to fraud prevention, including not duplicating work that council departments carry out themselves.
The committee heard that the risk of cyber fraud has risen to top of the list of the council’s concerns. It has been given a red rating and Mr Wilkinson said he could not guarantee that the council would not become a victim.
“Cyber is the highest risk,” said Mr Wilkinson.
“Not because our systems are vulnerable but for two reasons.
“We have seen a massive cultural shift to everybody working from home, so the resilience of our IT systems is something to be commended and is dealing with significantly more volume transacting through it.”
He said attacks are faced “almost daily” and include the risks of staff clicking on fraudster email links.
“If staff are working remotely perhaps they are a little detached from the good concepts of good protection around cyber security and might be tempted to click that dodgy email,” he said.
Mr Wilkinson added: “We can’t guarantee that we will never be caught with one of those attacks. It is on our doorstep.
“Northamptonshire got caught with an impersonation fraud, where an invoice of £80,000 was paid out.
“These people are very sophisticated how they sneak those things through our controls.
“Every once in a while one of those issues will sneak through all of the protections we put in place.
“We’ve got to have a dose of reality.”
Councillors agreed to scrutinise the issue of cyber security more closely at a future meeting.