Universal credit fraud and errors hit record high
Over the past year, Universal Credit has been a lifeline for millions of UK citizens who have found themselves unemployed or whose income has been reduced due to Covid-19.
However, official figures show that fraud and error cases have reached unprecedented heights over the past year. It is on the backs of the government relaxing normal controls to deal with the influx of new candidates. Let’s take a look at what’s going on and how you can universal credit fraud yourself.
Increase in fraud and errors at CrÃ©dit Universel: what are the figures?
Data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) shows that Â£ 8.4bn was lost in 2021-2021 due to universal credit fraud and errors. This is almost double the already enticing figure of Â£ 4.6bn from the previous year.
According to officials, this significant increase is almost entirely due to fraud. According to the DWP, universal credit fraud alone has increased by more than half in the past year to 14.5%.
Overall, benefit system fraud and errors increased by almost two-thirds to 3.9%, from 2.4% the previous year. This is the highest rate ever recorded.
Why has universal credit fraud increased?
Officials believe the increase in universal credit fraud is due to more people claiming benefits and the increase in the value of each fraud case, rather than an increase in the proportion of people committing fraud. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people benefiting from universal credit has doubled to six million.
Many fraud cases involve people claiming more than they are entitled to by falsifying details such as the cost of their rent.
Others involve identity theft, where criminal gangs use people’s personal information to request universal credit advance payments. In fact, criminals took advantage of the relaxation of welfare rules last year to steal up to Â£ 1.5bn, according to the BBC.
During the pandemic, the government processed identity checks online rather than in person. Some candidate information is also taken by faith without any confirmation.
Despite an increase in fraud and errors in the benefit system, the vast majority of claims remain valid. According to a DWP spokesperson, over 95% of benefits are still paid correctly.
How do criminals target Universal Credit?
A common universal credit scam involves criminals targeting people by offering to help them apply for a “low cost loan” or “free government grant” for a fee. In reality, money is actually a advance payment of the Universal Credit. It is basically a loan that will have to be repaid.
When people give out their contact details, criminals use them to request an advance payment. After taking their “fees”, victims are left with a relatively large amount to repay the government.
How can I protect myself against universal credit fraud?
If you have universal credit, you can protect yourself by never sharing your personal information with someone you don’t trust.
Of course, there are other circumstances where criminals can access your information without contacting you directly. They can use methods like online phishing, hacking, and even digging through your garbage.
Here are some tips to help prevent your information from falling into the wrong hands and being used for universal credit fraud and other forms of identity fraud:
- Do not share personal information such as your phone number or personal address on social media.
- Avoid clicking on unknown attachments in emails.
- Limit your online shopping to legitimate sites.
- Destroy all documents that may contain your personal information before disposing of them.
- Create strong passwords for your online accounts.
- Protect your devices with up-to-date security software.
- Be careful when using a public Wi-Fi network, especially when surfing sites that may contain your personal information.
If you have been a victim of universal credit fraud, you can report it to Action Fraud through their online reporting tool. You can also call them on 0300 123 2040.
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