Capital: What are the main frauds that you detect?
Patrice Costes: The main right, that is to say the basic pension, is extremely difficult to defraud because the declarations do not come from the beneficiary but from a third party (like the company, editor’s note). The risk is rather on the side of rights subject to conditions that change over time, such as the survivor’s pension and the minimum old age. Fraud can relate to identity, family situation, level of resources or even career, regularity of stay and residence.
Capital: What means have been put in place to fight against these frauds?
Patrice Costes: Regarding the payment of the pension, we are in the preventive. We ask for a series of supporting documents and we check them before paying the pension. In the case, for example, of a person who has provided us with a fake pay slip, we will check the records of his employer to see if it matches. On the regularity of stays, we have access to the directory of residence permits from the Ministry of the Interior and therefore we can check that the person is in good standing. Each time, we try to have information given by a third party and not by the insured.
Capital: What aspects are you particularly vigilant about?
Patrice Costes: One of the most recurrent fraud risks concerns residency. For certain benefits such as the Solidarity allowance for the elderly, you must reside in France on a regular basis to receive it. However, some people do not tell us that they have moved abroad. The symmetrical of this risk is the risk of death. A family does not report the death of one of its members to continue to receive their pension. This fraud is almost impossible in France because we receive the deaths of the day every night. For a series of European countries, this data is communicated to us every month. But there are some countries for which we do not have access to their civil status. There, there is a significant fragility, because the documents cannot be sent to us by a third party. For example, for the certificate of existence (document proving the existence of a retiree living abroad and which must be sent every year, editor’s note) it is a town hall which certifies the existence, but we do not have no direct connection with her.
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Capital: In this case, what are you doing to limit fraud?
Patrice Costes: We concentrate actions on places where we know that we do not have the means to verify with certainty the information given by the insured. We are working on this issue, particularly with Algeria, which has 600,000 retirees, which represents one billion in benefits paid. To verify the existence of pensioners, since last year we have had a partnership with an Algerian bank so that an insured person for whom we have doubts, for example because he has not replied for 6 months and he reappears, goes to his counter to have his identity checked. Those for whom there is a real suspicion, we will, from this year, summon them to the consulates.
Capital: Do you plan to deploy this system in other countries?
Patrice Costes: Yes, this will not be reserved for Algeria. For example, in Morocco, we are experimenting with a fairly similar system that goes through the Moroccan pension fund. This fund undertakes to verify the existence of pensioners in its own local branches. We try each time to stick to local arrangements. The idea is to gradually have more and more insured persons whose existence we can verify by exchanging civil status. Out of 1.2 million retirees living abroad, today this exchange of civil status is done for 400,000 of them. Our goal is to reach 600,000 within 2 or 3 years. Which frees us from the capacity and the time to be more attentive to the 600,000 others.
Capital: Are you also relying on biometrics to strengthen controls?
Patrice Costes: In 2021, we experimented with biometrics to verify that the insured is alive and well using their smartphone. 200 retirees volunteered. Before generalizing this principle, we await the authorization of the National Commission for IT and Liberties to award a public contract. The use of biometrics will remain intended for voluntary retirees. This will be as robust in our eyes as the exchanges of civil status.
Capital: What happens when you see proven fraud?
Patrice Costes: When we have grouped material elements that can be qualified as fraud, we interview the insured so that he can explain himself and present his arguments. If the fraud is proven, the insured must reimburse the rights unduly collected but also pay a penalty which can reach up to 12,000 euros. If we detect that there is an organized fraud that has benefited several people, then we go to criminal proceedings.
Capital: Does the CNAV have a department dedicated to these questions?
Patrice Costes: The 10,000 agents who process liquidation files are trained in fraud detection. Then there are controllers who verify these liquidations. And we have a team of about a hundred investigators who are sworn in court and do just that. It is somewhat the equivalent of the judicial police. They have broad access rights, for example they can ask a bank to provide all the bank statements of an insured over a given period.
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