A special commission in the northern German city of Braunschweig will investigate over 300 cases of fraud committed by asylum applicants, who gamed the welfare system by using multiple IDs to claim benefits – and that may just be the tip of the iceberg.
The estimated total loss of taxpayer money in the state of Lower Saxony alone has been put at three to five million euros ($3.2-5.3 million), Regional German broadcaster NDR reported.
In the majority of cases, the scheme was employed by Sudanese refugees who were applying for benefits within the social welfare system, the head of the newly established investigative commission, Joern Memenga, said, as cited by Deutsche Welle.
The scammers allegedly took advantage of the extreme workload the civil servants who were registering the applications were under in the summer of 2015, at the peak of the European migrant crisis.l
“At that point, we wanted to avoid one thing – homelessness,” Memenga said, adding that in some cases the same employees had registered more than one alias per applicant.
The welfare claimants would simply change their appearance to receive additional documents from unsuspecting social service workers. The not so sophisticated con met few road bumps, as the refugees did not have to give their fingerprints and, since they had no documents, were identified only from photographs.
“Sometimes just growing a beard, or putting on a pair of glasses, having shorter hair, but always different surnames,” Memenga said, as cited by DPA.