As with all money handling situations, fraud sometimes happens. In some instances as far as UK benefits are concerned, it is possible to commit a fraud even if you do not actually handle money. For instance if your benefits are paid directly to a third party and you somehow deceive the government into still making the payments when your changed circumstances no longer warrant it.
The claiming of undue benefits (intentionally) is a criminal offence, and in extreme cases can end up with a jail term. In most instances it is a matter of a fine, penalty, cessation of further benefits, or a combination of all, together with having to pay back the money that was received by fraudulent means.
Much depends upon the level of complicity in duping the government out of money.
The detection of benefits fraud is getting better and will continue to improve as more sophisticated methods are introduced into the fraud prevention units. Together with that, there is an increasing tendency for suspected fraud to be reported.
Not to be dismissed is the fact that people are encouraged to report benefit fraud. Sometimes this is done out of malice, disenchantment, or simply by mistaken whim about things.
Benefit Fraud has to be proven to be ‘intentional’ for there to be a criminal case. Accidental non-reporting is not classed as fraud. Nonetheless in most cases you will have to pay back that to which you were not entitled to. Fraud of benefits has to be something you did by intent.
A worrying aspect for some is the fact that they wrongly think they have committed a fraud, when in fact it is simply an oversight. Annoying maybe, and often worrying, but a benefits fraud it is NOT unless it was a deliberate intent to obtain money by deception.
Forgetting to inform any change in your circumstances is NOT a fraud. That is not to say that you do not have to repay any benefits received because of your forgetfulness. Being forgetful is not a criminal offence.
If you give wrong information in your claim, but truly believed that it was correct, then it is not benefit fraud. It will probably mean you having to pay back some or all of the benefits you received as a result of the accidental wrong information, and a reminder to be more careful.
It is important for you to tell the benefits office as soon as you realise that you have made a genuine mistake. If you unreasonably fail to notify once you realise a mistake has been made, then that starts to get into the realms of being a fraud. A genuine mistake in itself is NOT a fraud, but withholding the information once you realise the mistake IS fraudulent. A mistake can mean a mild rebuke – no more. A fraud is a very different matter.
If you are suspected of deliberate benefit fraud, you will firstly be contacted by the department concerned with the suspicion. This will normally be the DWP, HM Revenue and Customs, your local council officials or the Veterans Agency of Service and Personnel.
This initial contact would be the normal avenue of approach, followed up possibly by Fraud Investigation Officers – either by visit or at their office for an interview. You are entitled to have a friend or advisor present if this is the case. Don’t ‘go it alone’ if you are doubtful of your case.
If there is an investigation, then your benefits – or some of them – may be stopped until the investigation is over. This can take a few weeks or even longer! You will be informed in writing by letter if there is to be any halt on your benefits.
Not all benefits can be stopped as a result of an ongoing fraud investigation – nor indeed if you are actually convicted of fraud.
March 9th 2017
***Child Tax Credit - From April this year the ‘family element’ of £545 per year will be abolished.***
March 8th 2017
**MPs are calling for a halt to the accelerating roll-out of Universal Credit as the ongoing problems are causing undue and unnecessary hardship**
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