ID scams may lead to DNA testing

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Calls were being made this week for mandatory DNA-testing of children born at home in Norway, following several welfare fraud cases involving women who claimed benefits for  children they never had. More than 70 children have been deleted from the state’s public register (Folkeregister) because they didn’t exist.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that state welfare agency NAV had uncovered the scam carried out by Roma women in Norway. NAV revealed that the children had never been born and that their “parents” had received more than NOK 30 million (USD 5.5 m) in welfare benefits. Some of the children had existed on paper since 1995.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that 16 people have so far been convicted in court for the welfare fraud.  A total of 24 people have been reported to the police, eight of whom are waiting for their trial date. One ongoing case in Oslo involves a woman who reportedly has received around NOK 700,000 in benefits since 1995.

‘Simple but efficient’
Their method of operating was said to be simple but efficient: A pregnant woman visited several doctors in other womens’ names and had them all registered as pregnant. Once the child was born, she lent him or her to the other women who then went to the authorities, claiming they gave birth at home. They had the child registered in their name, under their protection and received a social security number (personnummer) in the national register for the child, after which they received various welfare benefits.

Suspicions had arisen around the problem for a long time “but no one wanted to touch it,” claimed former police superintendent Finn Abrahamsen, who’s calling for obligatory DNA-testing after home births. “It’s a fact that this will spill over to other groups, so one must as soon as possible find a solution to this through mandatory DNA-testing of mother and child when the child is not born in a hospital,” Abrahamsen told NRK. Current rules say a DNA test may be demanded only when there is a suspicion of something illegal.

NAV has established an entire new team working exclusively with welfare fraud through false identity, but so far has only directed its efforts towards fake children and this particular group.

Other false ID challenges
Meanwhile, thousands of foreign nationals have received residence permits in Norway without authorities being certain of their identity, Aftenposten reported this week, quoting a new police report.

“Today’s system allows for foreigners to operate with different identities relatively easily,” Arne Isak Tveitan, head of National ID-center (Nasjonalt ID-senter) told Aftenposten. He said authorities do not have the necessary knowledge, tools or rules in place to use biometric technology for fingerprint and photo identification, despite this being the safest way to secure a person’s true identity.

“We are very worried about the challenges we are facing regarding false identities,” Pål Lønseth, state secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, told Aftenposten. He said there were good reasons to review how the police work in these matters, both when it comes to organization, training and tools being used.

Views and News from Norway/Aasa Christine Stoltz

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