Social security fraud targeted

About 1,400 people could face legal action for continuing to collect the monthly pension payments of relatives who have died, it was revealed on Thursday.

Officials at the IKA social security fund, Greece?s largest, had spent the last few months going through the records of pensioners born before 1920 and found that in some 1,400 cases, the recipients had died but their spouses or children continued to collect their retirement benefits.

IKA said yesterday that it has stopped the payments and will now begin proceedings to recover almost 1.9 million euros that was wrongly paid each month to these families. Branches of the fund around the country have been ordered to take legal action against the people who were collecting the money under false pretences.

The fund said that it would continue its checks and that it has set up an annual audit of all IKA pensioners to avoid errors in the future. All social security funds are conducting similar checks as part of an effort to slash waste in line with broader public spending cuts.

Authorities have also begun checks on incapacity benefits. Last month, it was revealed that an unusually high proportion of residents on Zakynthos were registered as being blind. Deputy Health Minister Markos Bolaris said on Thursday that checks had revealed a ?high number? of suspicious claims.

He gave the example of residents of Livadia, central Greece, claiming they were suffering from serious cases of asthma, for which they received benefit payments, but at the same time they were employed by the local municipality.

?Benefit payments are the money of the Greek people,? said Bolaris, who did not rule out the possibility of taking legal action to recover any funds that were paid out as a result of fraud.

The Health Ministry is in the process of creating a national electronic database of incapacity benefits. It is expected that this will lead to savings of some 250 million euros, Bolaris said.