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Benefit fraud

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What is benefit fraud?

Most people claiming benefits are honest and claim only the amount of money they are entitled to. However, there are a few who intentionally withhold information so that they can receive more money from the government. These people are committing benefit fraud – an issue that cost the UK taxpayer an estimated £1.2billion in the 2010-2011 tax year.

Benefit fraud is a topic that hits the headlines every so often but many people aren’t quite sure what it entails. To make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law, here is a guide to everything you need to know about benefit fraud.

What is classified as benefit fraud?

There are two ways in which you can commit benefit fraud. The first is by deliberately not informing the authorities of any changes in your circumstances, for example if your partner moves in with you or if you start a new job. The second is by lying in order to claim benefits.

What if you’re suspected of benefit fraud?

If it is suspected that you’re fraudulently making benefit claims then you’ll be contacted either by the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency or your local authority. You may have to attend an interview to discuss your claim and you might receive a visit from Fraud Investigation Officers (FIOs). Your benefits may be stopped while the investigation takes place.

What happens next?

benefit fraudThe FIOs will gather evidence and decide whether or not further action is needed. If they decide that action is warranted then you may have to pay a penalty (usually between £350 and £2,000) or be taken to court. Your benefit payments will be reduced or stopped in accordance with your circumstances and you’ll be expected to pay back the money you were overpaid. If you are convicted of benefit fraud then you can be banned from claiming benefits for up to three years. The length of the ban will depend on how often and for how long you’ve been wrongly claiming.

How to report benefit fraud

If you suspect someone else may be committing benefit fraud you can report it to the Department for Work and Pensions online, by telephone or by post. The DWP will then investigate the report. You don’t have to give your name if you’d rather stay anonymous but you do have to provide information on the person(s) you’re reporting (such as their address and employer) and your reasons for thinking they are committing benefit fraud. The government won’t investigate someone without good reason.

What will happen next?

If the authorities think there may be a case to answer they will investigate and gather evidence. Often no action is taken and this may because there were no fraudulent claims being made or the person already declared changes of circumstance that made no difference to their claim. But whether or not action is taken, the Fraud Investigation Service is not allowed to tell you the outcome.

 

 

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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