BENEFIT claimants will reportedly have their bank accounts monitored under new "Big Brother" anti-fraud plans drawn up by the UK Government.

The law change is due to be introduced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement expected later this month, The Telegraph reports.

Ministers told the paper the change could save the taxpayer £500 million in the first five years.

There are concerns in Government about the number of people on out-of-work benefits, which has increased to 5.4m people since the pandemic.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) believe some of these are fraudulently claiming benefits while sitting on savings.

People are barred from claiming Universal Credit if they have more than £16,000 in savings but current rules make it hard for the Government to check this.

Under the current regime, the Department for Work and Pensions must request the details of an individual’s bank account if they suspect fraud its being committed.

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The new system would see banks required to run monthly or weekly checks to check for fraud red flags.

This would reportedly include benefit claimants who regularly send money abroad.

Kenny MacAskill, Alba's deputy leader, said: "It's not claimants with a few quid extra in their accounts that we need to monitor.

"It's those disclosed in the Panama papers, non-doms or routinely planking their money in offshore accounts to avoid tax that the UK Government should be pursuing.

"As the song goes: 'It's the poor that gets the blame, it's the rich that gets the pleasure'.

"It is time to tax the wealthy not harass the poor.”

Maggie Chapman, the Scottish Greens' equalities spokesperson added: "The UK Government is becoming more Big Brother, more dystopian, with every waking moment. 

“This wouldn’t simply be about tackling fraud, it could very quickly slide into an audit of what spending choices people make - did they choose own brand versus premium, whether a bar of chocolate as a treat for children is a luxury, whether someone reads the left-leaning National or the right-wing Daily Mail, what level of financial distress they are in. 

“It is as if the DWP and Home Office are competing to see which can be the cruellest. 

"Where does it stop? Spy cameras in the fridge? How long do you spend in a shower? If you turn the lights out quickly enough? 

“People are entitled to privacy, they should be treated as human beings and I would urge all politicians to oppose this dangerously invasive move.”

A Government source told The Telegraph: “Every pound stolen by fraudsters could be spent on our public services or on those most in need.

“[DWP Secretary] Mel [Stride] sees it as profoundly wrong that benefit cheats aren’t playing by the rules and is determined to bring fairness for the taxpayer.”

While the number of people claiming out of work benefits sits at 5.4m, the paper reported that the DWP identified just 11,000 cases of benefit fraud annually – around 0.2% of claimants.