Voice analysis 'lie detector' to fight benefit fraud

The government has announced it will trial the use of voice analysis technology to battle benefit cheats.

The government is to trial voice analysis technology to fight benefit fraud, the Secretary of State for work and pensions John Hutton announced today.

The Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) measures changes in a caller's voice for risky indicators or emotions. The technology is already being used in the insurance industry. The pilot in Harrow will be implemented by Capita Group and Digilog UK.

"The vast majority of people who receive benefits are genuinely entitled to them," said Hutton in a statement. "However, there is a minority who are intent on stealing money from those who need it most. This technology-based process aims to tackle these fraudsters while speeding up claims and improving customer service for the honest majority."

The VRA compares the levels of a caller's voice throughout the call with their voice at the start, looking for changes that could indicate suspicious behaviour. Because it uses the caller's own voice as a benchmark, nervousness and shyness will not trigger the system.

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If a callers' voices change substantially as their benefit claim is questioned, or if the patterns of their voice matches negative emotional patterns already on the system, they'll be asked to provide further evidence. The VRA technology will be run by operators trained in intelligent questioning and behavioural analysis.

"Our investigators are successfully using sophisticated 21st century techniques to stop criminals. The introduction of this cutting edge technology will be another weapon in the battle against benefit fraud," said Hutton.

Benefit fraud in the UK fell to 700 million in 2005 from 2 billion in 2001, the Department of Work and Pensions said. Last year, they prosecuted 52,000 cases of such fraud.

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