DWP checks people’s social networks and bank accounts for benefit fraud
People claiming payments from the Ministry of Labor and Pensions could be approached in the coming months.
Indeed, fraud and errors in the UK benefit system reached record levels during the pandemic.
This resulted in an overpayment of Â£ 8.4bn in the last financial year.
More than 23 million people receive DWP payments – from nearly six million on universal credit to 2.9 million on housing allowances.
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Now Universal Credit Managing Director Neil Couling says the DWP fraud and error investigation could see thousands of applicants approached over the next few months.
Investigators can come to your home or workplace in civilian clothes at any time if they suspect foul play, BirminghamLive reports.
They also use a wide range of powers to gather evidence such as surveillance, document searches, interviews, verifying your bank accounts, and monitoring your social media.
The DWP said: “Simply put, an overpayment is a benefit the claimant has received but is not entitled to.
“Overpayments of benefits can occur in several ways. They are mainly due to claimant, system or administration error.”
And he’s described seven types of overpayments he’s looking for:
- applicant’s error (non-disclosure of circumstances or incomplete form)
- deliberate fraud on the part of the applicant (failure to disclose a material fact or willful misrepresentation)
- interim payments and advances, including advances on short-term benefits that could not be recovered from the benefits for which they were paid
- Universal credit recoverable hardship payments (classified as an overpayment for collection purposes if recovery can no longer be taken from the benefit that was in place at the time of payment)
- overpayment due to late allocation of other benefits / income
- overpayments due to the operation of the Direct Payment banking system
- official error – only applies to Universal Credit and Contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance applications made on or after April 29, 2013
In each of these cases, he can make efforts to recover the money under the social security legislation.
You can be sued in court where a fine of up to Â£ 5,000 can be imposed. A person’s benefits can be reduced for up to three years if found guilty of benefit fraud.
But not all of the benefits can be reduced or stopped – see the full list here.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We take any abuse of taxpayer money very seriously and those who claim benefits to which they are not entitled will face criminal prosecution.
“We also have strong plans in place to recover fraudulent claims and reduce fraud and errors to the lowest possible level.”
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