The BBC has ordered an investigation into TV licence collectors following reports that they are deliberately targeting vulnerable people who have not paid.
Enforcement officers at Capita are ordered to catch 28 evaders every week and promised incentive bonuses of up to £15,000 a year, according to a Daily Mail investigation.
The company is reportedly paid £58 million a year to collect licence fees for the broadcaster.
Staff targeted vulnerable people, including a war veteran with dementia and a young mother in a women’s refuge, the paper said.
One of the bosses was allegedly caught telling an undercover journalist: “We will drive you as hard as we can to get as much as we can out of you because we’re greedy.”
The BBC has ordered an urgent investigation into the report and said financial incentives were offered only for licence sales, not prosecutions.
“We are very disappointed by the conduct of Capita’s interviewing managers in this particular case, which is not in line with the high standards we expect and does not reflect the policies in place,” a spokesman said.
“We have asked Capita to investigate urgently and ensure swift and appropriate action is taken.”
She added: “We expect inquiry officers to behave in a courteous, professional manner and abide by a published code of conduct.
“Capita’s incentive scheme operates purely on licence fee sales, never on prosecution statements taken, and Capita has confirmed again that this is how it operates.”
Anyone with a television or who watches iPlayer without a licence can be fined up to £1,000 and be given a criminal record.
Capita bosses also face being called to Parliament to explain themselves to MPs, according to the Daily Mail.
The company told the Mail that its incentive scheme applied only to sales of licence fees, not the number of people officers interview so they can be taken to court.