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cash crash Up to 1,000 NI high street voucher applicants told National Insurance number 'already used'

A caller to the BBC's Nolan show said he managed to get accepted after changing random digits in his National Insurance number

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Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launching the high street voucher scheme  (Liam McBurney/PA)

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launching the high street voucher scheme (Liam McBurney/PA)

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launching the high street voucher scheme (Liam McBurney/PA)

Up to 1,000 people in Northern Ireland have been refused access to their application for the high street £100 voucher after being informed their National Security Number has already been used.

A caller to today’s BBC Radio Ulster Stephen Nolan show said they had been affected by the problem and the Department for the Economy has said they are aware of the situation.

The caller said that when his wife had applied for the scheme she was sent a message saying she was told her National Insurance number had already been used.

He said: “The only thing she could do was to email them and she just got a response back saying: ‘We know about this issue’, and that was it.”

He added: “Are they (Department for the Economy) not checking the address of the applicant against the registered address of the National Insurance number?

“Obviously if someone is doing this fraudulently, they will want the card shipped to a different address.

“If they were checking the address this shouldn’t happen and if they aren’t checking the address, then the system is wide open to abuse.”

The caller also said he experimented with the system by changing two random numbers on his own National Insurance number, with the number being accepted.

A spokesperson for the department said: “While an applicant will be asked to provide their National Insurance number to commence their application, the application will not be approved until the applicant’s data has been verified.

“To date, around 1,000 members of the public have contacted the Department to report that their NINO (National Insurance number) 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 spendlocalNINO@economy-ni.gov.uk”

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They said that while almost one million people have already applied for the £1.4m scheme there is no indication of fraudulent activity and continue to urge applicants to take care that they are entering the correct number when prompted online.

The cards can only be used in physical shops and cannot be used online, or for gambling or legal services.

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