Rip-Off Britain: Host discusses Universal Credit fraud
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Fraud costs the public billions, as criminals attempt to take advantage of the welfare state. But in recent years, the Cabinet Office has mitigated much of the damage. An anti-fraud scheme, run by the Cabinet Office, has detected or prevented more than £2billion of fraud since it was launched 25 years ago, helping to protect public money and put fraudsters behind bars.
The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) has played a “critical role” in identifying people trying to defraud the public sector, ensuring taxpayers’ money goes towards delivering vital services, instead of ending up in the wrong hands.
Lord Agnew, the Cabinet Office Minister, commented: “The work done by the National Fraud Initiative is keeping nefarious fingers out of the public purse, protecting funding which can go towards essential services such as the NHS.
“It’s entirely right that British taxpayers expect the Government to protect their hard-earned money and programmes such as these allow us to do exactly that.”
The importance of this initiative was highlighted recently by a fraudulent benefit claim.
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Benefit fraud costs the UK economy billions (Image: GETTY)
One discovered case saw a man fraudulently claim more than £40,000 of incapacity benefit, income support and council tax benefits.
After this was detected by the NFI, further investigation found he owned several small businesses, had savings of more than £100,000 and owned a Mercedes Benz, complete with personalised number plates.
Since it was established in 1996, the NFI has also helped public bodies prevent more than £300million of Council Tax discount scams, £370million of housing benefit fraud, almost £850million of pension payments being made in error, and has taken more than 183,000 fraudulently claimed disabled parking badges out of circulation.
While this initiative has proven undoubtedly helpful, regular households and consumers can also have their part to play.
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Where someone suspects benefit fraud is being committed, they can report it to the Government.
This is done through the Government’s website and when doing so, users will need to include as much information as they can about the person they’re reporting.
This could include their name, address, and the type of fraud they’re suspected of.
These reports can be made anonymously, and it is also possible to report benefit fraud by calling the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440.
Universal Credit demand rose in 2020 (Image: EXPRESS)
Following a report, the Department for Work and Pensions Fraud and Error Service will look at the information provided.
While it will not be able to tell the reporter involved of the outcome of their investigation, the Fraud and Error Service will take action if they find the person has been committing benefit fraud.
Action can include removing a person’s benefits and taking them to court.
Sometimes no action will be taken as the person involved may have declared a change in their circumstances, or their benefit may not be affected by what was reported.
Those who are suspected of benefit fraud may have their payments stopped while they’re being investigated.
They may be visited by Fraud Investigation Officers (FIOs) or asked to attend an interview to talk about their claim – known as an “interview under caution”.
Should a person be found to have committed or attempted fraud, one or more of the following may occur:
- They’ll be told to pay back the overpaid money
- They may be taken to court or asked to pay a penalty (between £350 and £5,000)
- Their benefits may be reduced or stopped