‘It’s a nightmare’: Woman faces claim for £ 1,300 due to universal credit fraud | Identity theft
A A woman from Hampshire, whose identity was used by fraudsters to apply for a Â£ 1,300 universal credit advance, was told by investigators that they were dealing with thousands of similar cases and that ‘it could have happened to anybody “.
In March, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suspended face-to-face interviews for new applicants.
Between that date and October, 3.7 million applications were filed for the government allowance, which supports the unemployed and low-income people.
But while most were legitimate, some came from scammers claiming other people’s names, raising questions about changes to security measures.
Advance payments are made to UC applicants who cannot wait the five to six weeks it takes for an application to be processed because they have no money. They come in the form of a loan that is clawed back on the beneficiary’s benefit payment, once approved, or on his salary if he is still working.
The first time Jane Davies * knew someone had made a claim on her behalf was when she received a letter from the DWP telling her that he would take a large chunk of her Â£ 1,334 advance on his salary in November.
Davies, a single mother, says she has never applied for benefits other than family allowance. She initially thought the letter was a scam.
It was only after spending hours on hold and finally talking to someone that she found out the demand was real and the government was on the verge of getting back the money it had paid someone. ‘another claiming on his behalf.
âThe letter warned that 20% of next month’s salary was to be taken and trying to fix this has been a nightmare,â Davies said.
âNone of the people I spoke to were able to help me except to tell me that I owed this money. I reported the matter to Action Fraud and heard nothing. Likewise, I tried to change my National Insurance Number, which I thought was used as part of the claim, but only get standard responses via email – I’m running around in circles. I must have spent 30 hours on the phone trying to sort this out, most of it on hold.
Until now, universal credit fraud has been almost exclusively carried out by people knowingly exploiting the system, or by the crooks offer to claim the allowance on behalf of the victim and take a share of the payment.
Following the Guardian’s intervention, Davies was contacted by a member of the DWP’s fraud team, who she said told her the department was handling thousands of similar cases.
âThey said it could have happened to anyone during the spring and summer, as they were giving out almost without checks,â she said. âI asked which bank account this payment had been made into – because it was certainly not mine – but the person didn’t tell me for data protection reasons.
âI was worried my national insurance number had been used by the scammer, but she told me he wouldn’t have needed it to request an advance. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I suspect that I am not the only one in this position and others will start to receive similar letters.
If her case is not, as is suspected, isolated, many other households will receive similar requests and will have to spend hours dealing with the fallout as she has.
According to the DWP, universal credit was partly introduced to reduce fraud. However, in May, benefit officials told the BBC they feared as much as Â£ 1.5 billion was lost in fraudulent claims. They said some organized criminal groups – as well as individuals – may have taken advantage of the system.
One official said he was concerned that hundreds of millions of pounds had been paid as advances, sometimes on the same day, and that it would be much more difficult to get this money back as recipients often could not be found.
A DWP spokesperson said: âFraud and errors in the benefit system remain very low with 96.5% of benefits paid correctly. Any victim of a scam, who has not benefited from it in any way, cannot be held responsible for any debt. Instead, we’ll be looking to recoup all of the author’s losses, and in this case, no money has been taken from Jane Davies. “
* Jane Davies isn’t her real name
What to do if you are a victim of identity theft
If letters start arriving for you from companies you haven’t dealt with, that’s not a good sign and you should always open them and take the appropriate action. This may be the first indication you have that you have been the victim of fraud.
It is strongly recommended that anyone whose identity has been compromised by fraudsters to check their credit report and ensure that no other loan, mobile phone contract or any other credit has been contracted in their name. .
In the UK the three major credit reference agencies (CRAs) are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion and each has a file on you showing bank and credit card accounts, as well as other credit agreements such as current loan agreements or debts of utility companies.
They will show if you have made any refunds on time and in full. Late payments or defaults will stay on your credit report for at least six years. Obtaining a copy of your credit report is free and you can access the report online or by requesting a written copy.
If you find something that was not you, you should contact the company that put it there and dispute the issue. You can expect a tedious process and all kinds of data protection issues as the company asks you for passwords that you may not be aware of because the account was created by the scammer.
For their part, CRA businesses have gotten better at helping consumers whose ID has been used to steal items. For example, Experian has a team of fraud victims to handle cases.
If you see an âIdentity Theft Victimâ listed on your credit report and you are unaware that you have been a victim of identity theft (or attempted identity theft) ‘identity), don’t worry.
Chances are the registration was done by an organization to protect you, and a letter is on the way with an explanation (provided they know your current address and are sure the fraudster won’t be. alert).
It is very important to deal with unknown defects that appear in your file. If you don’t, you will likely be denied all credits, even a Â£ 15 per month mobile phone contract. The Guardian is frequently contacted by readers who are mysteriously turned down after making their first mortgage application, only to find that there was an unexplained default in the file that has been around for several years.