What DWP Checks When Investigating Universal Credit Fraud Amid £ 8 Billion Overpayments
Around 3,000 new workers will be hired to deal with years of payment errors even before the pandemic begins – in addition to mistakes made since the introduction of Covid support
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More than Â£ 8 billion has been overpaid in benefits since claims were relaxed due to Covid, ministers said.
About Â£ 8.3bn was overpaid to claimants last year, the vast majority of which is due to fraud, MPs said.
However, there are also many cases related to administrative errors where people were wrongly assessed.
The huge increase is mainly due to the doubling of the number of people receiving universal credit in the wake of the pandemic, according to a report by the House of Commons public accounts committee.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has relaxed fraud checks to allow it to handle an unprecedented number of new claims during the Covid crisis last year.
MEPs said this opened the door for “organized criminals and dishonest opportunistic individuals” to “steal the taxpayer”.
Worryingly, the DWP said the amount lost due to fraud and error will be the same in the current fiscal year.
The report said: “The department has lost control over Universal Credit overpayments, which account for most of the Â£ 3.8 billion increase in fraud and error and are now at overpayments. -paid the highest of all benefits. “
Dame Meg Hillier, Chair of the Committee, said: âThis is a real waking nightmare for the large number of people affected, from the most vulnerable in our society to families who work full time and still struggle daily to reach. both ends.
“The department does not appear equipped to properly administer our labyrinthine benefit system or to detect and correct years of errors in too many of our welfare entitlements, long before its current woes.”
So how does the department investigate fraud, what if it’s their mistake, and what is they looking for? We take a look below.
What is benefit fraud?
This is when a person receives a benefit (a tax credit or a benefit payment, for example) to which they would not normally be entitled.
Fraud investigators have a wide range of powers that allow them to gather evidence in a number of ways, including surveillance, interviews, and document tracing.
You won’t know the exact details of an investigation being carried out against you until you find out afterwards – which may be in court if you are charged with an offense.
Here are some examples of what benefit fraud looks like:
- Faking sickness or injury to get unemployment or disability benefits
- Do not report income from a business or employment to make it seem like the income is less than it really is
- Living with a person who contributes to the household income without declaring this income to the authorities
- Forge accounts to make it look like a person has less money than they claim.
What Happens During a DWP Investigation?
The DWP will not necessarily contact you at the start of an investigation, as they will need to assess if they have a case against you.
If he concludes that he has sufficient evidence and decides to pursue a formal investigation against you, you will be contacted in writing, by phone or by email – this is usually done by post.
When you are notified, you will also be informed if you are due to be visited by a Fraud Investigation Officer (FIO) or if they ask you to attend an interview.
What evidence will be taken into account?
The most common form of benefit fraud is related to misrepresenting income or failing to report employment or income.
If you are applying for unemployment benefits but go to a workplace, the DWP may speak to the owner or manager of that business to find out exactly why you are there, what work you do, and how much you are paid.
Investigators can also check your social media accounts, which allows investigators to dig deeper into your day-to-day activities.
Here are some of the things they can pursue:
- Inspectors’ reports on surveillance activities
- Photographs or Videos
- Audio recordings
- Financial data, including bank statements
- Interviews with you or people you know
- Any evidence submitted by those who reported you
What if I am falsely reported to the DWP?
While the DWP acts on public reporting, it also has its own sophisticated means of detecting fraudulent activity, meaning anyone benefiting from the DWP can be investigated at any time.
False claims of benefit fraud are common in the UK, with some studies indicating that there are around 140,000 each year.
Until the DWP determines that there is no case against you, there is little that you can do.
Cooperate as best you can and remember that those who have misrepresented for malicious reasons may end up being prosecuted.
If you are concerned about a current or future DWP investigation against you or someone dear to you, seeking legal advice may help.