Covid loans scheme hit by over £1bn in suspected fraud

The Government is joining forces with lenders and agencies to tackle the high level of bounce-back scheme fraud cases.

A new report shows that £1.1 billion worth of loans provided through the Government’s bounce-back loan scheme (BBLS) have been marked as suspected fraud.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released a document on 5 September on the scheme’s performance, with data covering up to 31 July 2022.

Data released by the BEIS has confirmed that since September 2020, investigations have only been launched into £160m worth of claims out of the £1.1bn total.

The BBLS provided rapid financial aid to small businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read more: Covid loans scheme hit by over £1bn in suspected fraud

Applicants were required to self-declare their eligibility criteria for the loans to encourage banks to lend quickly.

The large amount of fraud committed against BBLS is thought to have occurred due to the speed and urgency of the scheme’s rollout, with some businesses giving false information when filling out their applications.

To date, the scheme has paid out £46.6bn worth of loans, and the Government estimates 500,000 businesses could have permanently ceased trading had the scheme not been in place.

Protections were introduced from the start of the scheme to reduce the number of fraudulent claims, and lenders were required to make or maintain various checks to screen applicants.

Lenders reported preventing over £2.2bn worth of fraud from being committed against the scheme as a result of these checks.

The Government says it is working with the British Business Bank, lenders and law enforcement agencies to tackle fraud in BBLS and penalise fraudsters.

In the new report, the department for BEIS said:

“It is unfortunate that some have taken the decision to take advantage of this vital intervention by defrauding the scheme for their own financial gain.

“The Government has always been clear that anyone who sought to do so is at risk of prosecution.”

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