The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has shut down its online tax credits web portal after details emerged of mass identity theft that could potentially cost the government millions.
Thieves have stolen as many as 13,000 identities belonging to staff at the department and have used them to create bogus bank accounts into which funds from tax credits can be channeled.
The website, used by as many as half a million Britons each year to access their benefits, was closed on December 2 after the Inland Revenue noticed suspicious activity on the system. However a political row has now broken out amid suggestions that officials have deliberately downplayed the scale of the problem.
The government says the case is now under police investigation, while hundreds of staff at the department fear that the criminals will be able to take out loans and set up bank accounts, which could negatively affect their credit rating in the future.