The UK benefit system is in place to assist financially with essential provisions needed to promote a decent quality of life – offering vital support to those who need it most. In the majority of cases, systems are adhered to and rules are upheld. Sadly there are a few who choose to abuse the system, such negative behaviour often takes the form of ‘benefit fraud’.
We aim to share some clarity on what actually constitutes benefit fraud, what the consequence are and what to do if you suspect someone of committing such deception.
So what exactly is Benefit Fraud?
Benefit fraud can typically be divided into two categories which are:
- Obtaining benefits by dishonest means
- Intentionally failing to report a change in your circumstances
Reporting a change in your circumstance
Any changes in your circumstance for example different working hours, a pay increase or the number of people living in your household, must be reported as soon as possible.
Benefit helplines are open from 8am until 6pm on a Monday to Friday – advisors will gladly discuss any associated queries you may have.
Fraud Investigation Procedure – what to expect of suspected of benefit fraud
If you have been suspected of benefit fraud it is common practice for direct notification to be sent via the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency or the local authorities.
It is not unusual for a Fraud Investigation Officer to visit or for suspects to be asked to attend a benefit interview. The Fraud Investigation Officer (FIO) has the job of gathering all necessary evidence, ascertain if further action is required.
Possible Consequences of Benefit Fraud
Benefit fraud can have serious consequences, for instance court action, penalties (of between £350 – £2000), benefit withdrawal and an overpayment request.
If convicted of benefit fraud, you could lose your benefits for up to 3 years – depending on the extent of the deception.
Reductions on the benefit in question or other benefits you are currently claiming are commonplace.
How to report Benefit Fraud
If you suspect someone of benefit fraud it is imperative that you have all relevant details in place prior to contacting the DWP Fraud Investigation Service. A firm belief that any wrongdoing is being committed and the following information are paramount.
Whether contacting the DWP by phone, online writing or online, you will need to have to following details prepared:
- The name, address & a description of the person you are reporting
- Details of the person’s partner, if they have one
- Reasons why you suspect them and the type of benefit they are possibly defrauding
- If you think they are working, do you have their employer’s details?
- Information about any vehicles they have
All details are taken in confidence and you have the right to remain anonymous.
Contacting the Benefit Fraud Department
The National Benefit Fraud Helpline (NBFH) is available between the hours of 8am and 6pm on a Monday to Friday – they can be contacted via the number provided.
Posting your Benefit Fraud detail
The address to send relevant documentation to is:
PO Box 224