Deliberately failing to report a change in your circumstances or being dishonest about information regarding your benefit claim is considered benefit fraud.
A benefit claimant commits fraud by failing to give the following information:
Fraud may also be committed by:
Penalties for benefit fraud include:
Benefits that can be reduced or withdrawn are called ‘sanctionable’, and include:
The following benefits can’t be reduced or stopped if you commit benefit fraud:
If you commit fraud on a benefit that can’t be reduced or stopped, your other benefits can be reduced instead.
If you commit benefit fraud and you’re on any of the following benefits, none of your benefits can be stopped or reduced:
There is no time limit for recovering a benefit overpayment – you could be investigated several years after the alleged fraud took place. There is, however, a six-year time limit for taking court action to recover the overpayment.
If you think a decision concerning your benefits is incorrect, you have one month after receiving the decision letter/email to challenge it (this may be extended by 14 days if you ask for written statement of reasons for the decision or if special rules that allow more time apply to you).
If you don’t agree with a decision you must ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to look at the decision again (a reconsideration). If the reconsideration doesn’t go your way, you can appeal against the decision to an independent tribunal.
Some benefit fraud decisions cannot be appealed. The letter explaining the decision will make it clear if this is the case.
After the reconsideration, the DWP will send you two copies of a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice. Ensure you send one copy of this to the HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) with your appeal form (Form SSCS1) within one month. Your appeal will not be accepted without it
Benefit fraud can be reported online, by telephone or by post. Go to the DWP website for further information. You can make an anonymous report if necessary, all reports are treated in confidence. It does help if you do provide your details so you can be contacted for further questions if necessary.
The law requires that there be good reason for investigating someone for benefit fraud, therefore it is essential to provide as much of the following information as possible:
The Department for Work and Pensions Fraud and Error Service will look at the information you give. This investigation may take some time, and no notification is given to the informant of any action taken. It is possible that no action is taken if, for example, a change in a person’s circumstances does not affect their benefit claim.
The information given in a benefit claim is checked by DWP to make sure it is accurate. This is a routine check and includes; comparing the information the claimant has provided with records about them held by other government agencies. For example, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will know if the claimant is paying tax or working, and will be able to confirm the claimant’s earnings. Local authorities will also be contacted for information about the claimant before administering any benefits.
The DWP can make checks at any time, not only when the initial claim is made.
If the DWP’s enquiries find that the information from other government agencies does not match the benefit claim, authorised DWP fraud investigators may visit the claimant at their home or request that they attend an interview.
Enquiries can be made only where there are reasonable grounds to think benefit fraud has been committed. If this is the case, DWP fraud investigators will look into your details more carefully. Your benefits may be suspended while they investigate. They will compare information about you and your family with information already given on your claim forms or in interviews.
The DWP collects and holds any information about you relating to your benefit claim. The law allows the DWP to compare this information and share it with other organisations and government agencies.
The(DPA 1998) gives you the right by law to know what personal information is held about you by organisations. To find out how DPA 1998 affects you, download a leaflet on the DWP website.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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