Parking officers have long had to contend with Blue Badge fraud but a new analysis can finally reveal that unscrupulous drivers are swindling local authorities out of nearly to a billion pounds (£853,050,0001) a year in unpaid parking fees.
The study, carried out by deceased identity fraud specialists Wilmington Millennium, found that according to Department for Transport figures there were 2.35 million disabled badge holders last year, accounting for 4.3% of the population.
However, the Audit Commission estimates that at least 20% of badges are being used fraudulently. This means that currently close to half a million Blue Badges (470,000) are being used dishonestly, scamming hundreds of millions of pounds worth of parking charges.
The Audit Commission found that the most common types of fraud included deceased fraud, where people continue to use the Blue Badges of friends or family members who have passed away; expiry fraud, where drivers continue to use a Blue Badge that has expired; and lost and stolen fraud, in which Blue Badges being used that have been lost by or stolen from the original holder. Last year alone there were 15,6852 reports of lost or stolen badges.
Currently only 59% of councils have a policy in place to prosecute offenders. Moreover, a Freedom of Information request by Wilmington Millennium discovered that only 18% of councils had a specific policy in place to identify deceased ID fraud.
However, a further 56% said that they had access to deceased data through schemes such as Tell Us Once or through data matching exercises with other governmental departments if ID fraud is suspected. This means that 14% of councils in England – 48 out of 343 – have no way of checking whether Blue Badges of the deceased are still being used.
Wilmington Millennium product director for Halo and Mortascreen Patrick Lymath said: “Clearly Blue Badge fraud is a costly problem and one that could be reduced by putting simple ID fraud prevention processes into place. Furthermore, the fact that 41% of councils do not prosecute offenders sends a clear message that this is an acceptable crime.
“Identity fraud in general is now one of the fastest growing offences, costing UK businesses and taxpayers billions and if it is to be tackled it is critical that a zero tolerance approach is taken, even to what might be considered a small misdemeanour such as using a deceased person’s Blue Badge.”