Around 1,000 people in Northern Ireland have had their national insurance number used by others trying to receive the Spend Local cards. It has led to their applications being initially blocked after discovering someone else has tried to use their national insurance number. The Spend Local scheme has been designed to help those businesses who suffered the most due to restrictions.
Available to everyone over the age of 18, the cards are designed to give a boost to the local economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. All applicants are asked to provide their name, address, age, gender, disability status, national insurance number, email address and telephone number. Peter, a caller to The Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster on Tuesday morning revealed how his wife was among those impacted.
He said: "She tried to apply for the card online, gave her email address and received her link back to click on to enter her details including her national insurance number. "A screen popped saying sorry but it appears your national insurance number has been entered already and used by someone else making an application." Peter added that when his wife then contacted officials to flag the issue, she was informed that they were aware of the problem.
"She has had no contact whatsoever since she reported this. There are a couple of issues here but are they not checking the address of the applicant against the registered address for the national insurance number?" he asked. "Obviously if someone is doing this fraudulently, they'll want the card shipped to a different address.
If they were checking the address this shouldn't happen but if they're not, then the system is wide open to abuse." Peter said that when completing his own application for the scheme, he randomly changed two digits on his own national insurance number as a test and it was accepted however he did not complete the process The Department for the Economy has confirmed that around 1,000 people have been impacted.
A spokesperson also stressed that applications won't be approved or cards issued until a person's data has been verified. "While an applicant will be asked to provide their National Insurance number (NINO) to commence their application, the application will not be approved until the applicant's data has been verified," they said. "To date around 1,000 members of the public (0.1% of applications) have contacted the Department to report that their NINO has already been used and that they are unable to make an application.
"There is no indication at this stage that these cases represent fraudulent activity - for example, applicants may have made a mistake when typing in their NINO number and inadvertently used a number which belongs to another person. "The scheme has robust anti-fraud measures in place and this issue will be kept under close review. If someone thinks they have an issue with their NINO they should double-check they are using the right NINO and, if still having access issues, contact [email protected]".
The GBP145million Spend Local initiative is a key part of Economy Minister Gordon Lyons ' economic recovery action plan, worth GBP275million in total. GBP100 will be pre-loaded onto each card for spending in bricks and mortar shops in Northern Ireland. The cards will have to be used before the end of November and you can apply between now and October 25.
When an applicant receives their card, they will need to verify the card through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a personal identification number (PIN), before they can start to use it for contactless payments.
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