More than 20 million people across the UK are currently claiming some sort of benefit or financial support from the Government.
While there will always be those that are knowingly doing it, many claimants do not realise they may be committing benefit fraud.
The Department for Work and Pension’s definition of benefit fraud is when “someone obtains state benefit they are not entitled to or deliberately fails to report a change in their personal circumstances”.
The most common form of benefit fraud is when a person receives unemployment benefits, while working or doing odd jobs for ‘cash in hand’.
Another is when someone receiving benefits claims that they live alone, but is financially supported by a partner or spouse, the Daily Record reports.
Failing to inform DWP about a “change of circumstances”, for example, that your partner is now living with you, or that you have moved house, or that a relative has died, leaving you some money, may also be classed as ‘fraud by omission’.
But one of the most overlooked, and easily done, is not telling the DWP of a change in your address.
Benefit payments are made into claimants’ bank or building society accounts, which means many don’t think informing the DWP of a change in their address is important – or necessary.
But it could have serious consequences and result in payments being stopped while a fraud investigation is conducted.
Most changes in circumstances can be reported online, so do not delay in contacting Social Security Scotland, DWP, HMRC or your local job centre.
Examples of benefit fraud
- finding or finishing a job
- not reporting a change of address
- having a child
- moving in with your partner
- starting to care for a child or disabled person
- changing your bank details
- your rent going up or down
- changes to your health condition
- becoming too ill to work or meet your work coach
- changes to your earnings (only if you’re self-employed)
The DWP lists the six most common examples of benefit fraud as:
- failing to report that you’re working
- failing to report a change of address
- failing to report the full amount of your income, savings or capital
- claiming benefit as a single person when you live with a partner
- claiming benefit for an address you don’t live at
- claiming benefit when you have no right to
What happens if I am reported?
If you are accused of committing benefit fraud you will be contacted by the DWP.
A Benefits or Fraud Investigation Officer may visit or contact you to talk about your benefit claim.
Your benefit may be stopped while under investigation. If this happens, you will get a letter telling you what will happen next.
If proof of benefit fraud is identified:
you may be formally cautioned
an administrative penalty may be imposed
the case may be referred to the Procurator Fiscal with a view to prosecution
The DWP always recovers any fraudulent over payment.
If you want to report benefit fraud
You can report someone if you think they’re being paid benefits they should not get. Social Security Scotland will look into all the details that you give.
When you report fraud you do not have to give your name.
Who you need to report fraud to
Who you need to report fraud to depends on the benefit involved.
Most benefit frauds can be reported to the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440.
You can report fraud of the following benefits to Social Security Scotland:
Best Start Grant
Carer’s Allowance Supplement
Funeral Support Payment
Young Carer Grant
Calls to Social Security Scotland on 0800 158 2071 are not recorded.
Report fraud of other benefits in Scotland through the National Benefit Fraud Hotline.