What is Benefit Fraud?
- Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and has been defined by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as when a person whom obtains state benefits that they are not entitled to or deliberately fail to report a change in their personal circumstances.
Examples of Benefit Fraud
- Deliberately failing to inform the benefit office of your true financial circumstances at the time of claiming benefits.
Deliberately withholding information would be: claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance whilst working or not declaring the amount of savings you had because you knew it would affect entitlement to benefits.
- Deliberately failing to inform the benefit office of true household circumstances.
Living with a partner or someone and claiming benefits as a lone parent.
- Using false identity or using false documents to claim benefits.
Using a false birth certificate to claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credits.
- Deliberately failing to tell the benefit office about a change of circumstances because doing so would affect entitlement to the benefit.
Time Limit for Investigating Benefit Fraud
- Any benefit office can investigate fraud at any time after it finds or receives any evidence that benefit fraud could be in progress, even if the alleged fraud took place years ago.
What Can Happen If You Are Suspected of Benefit Fraud?
If the benefit office suspects you of fraud or want to question your entitlement to benefits, they will carry out an investigation. During the investigation, the benefit office may and can:
- Make enquiries into your circumstances
- Suspend any benefits you receive
- Interview you informally
- Information you provide may be used at a later date to make an allegation of benefit fraud against you.
- Interview you under caution
- If the investigators into the fraud already suspect, you of committing a benefit offence they are likely to interview you under a caution. Anything you say whilst in the interview under caution could be used as evidence in court
What Happens During a Benefit Fraud Investigation?
- If investigators find evidence that fraud has been committed, you will be instructed to pay back all overpaid money.
- In addition, you may also be taken to court and ordered to pay a penalty (between £350 and £5,000) and any benefits that you are claiming may be reduced or stopped.
If investigators find enough evidence of fraud they may refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). However, these cases will be referred if:
- The gross overpayment is £2,000 or more
- False identities or documents have been used to obtain benefit
- You have helped or encouraged others to commit an offence
On a previous occasion, you have been convicted of benefit fraud.
Losing Benefit If Convicted of Benefit Fraud
- If convicted of benefit fraud the benefits that you receive can be reduced or in some cases stopped for up to 3 years.
- The amount of time benefits are stopped depends on the amount of times the person has been found guilty of benefit fraud.
Only certain benefits can be reduced or stopped. These are known as ‘sanctionable benefits’. If the fraud committed is on a benefit that cannot be reduced or stopped, other benefits that you are in receipt of may be reduced instead.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legalally does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.