What to do if the DWP is investigating you and what types of evidence are they looking at
Over 20 million people in the UK are currently claiming benefits or State pension from the Ministry of Labor and Pensions (DWP).
Over the next few months, that number is expected to increase as the full financial and economic impact of covid becomes visible once the UK government ends support next month.
The DWP estimates it overpaid £ 8.3bn (7.5%) of £ 111.4bn in non-state pension benefits between 2020 and 2021 – an increase of 3 , £ 8 billion from 2019 to 2020, making it the highest rate since the records began in 2005, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
The NAO said the pandemic was the main cause of the increase, as routine checks have been relaxed to ensure that a record number of new universal credit applications can be processed and paid quickly.
The DWP also estimates they have overpaid £ 5.5bn of universal credit and the NAO believes the reason is that many new applicants had more complex claims, such as self-employment income, which is more vulnerable. to fraud. – they also estimate that these factors accounted for £ 3.8 billion in universal credit overpayments.
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Commenting on the recent figures, a DWP spokesperson said: “We have also put in place solid plans to recover fraudulent claims and reduce fraud and errors to the lowest possible level.”
As a result, Universal Credit Managing Director Neil Couling has warned that thousands of applicants could be approached over the next few months as the DWP continues its exercise of fraud and error.
Claimants for benefits who gave incorrect information during the pandemic now risk being subject to an “administrative penalty” which will be recovered by a deduction from any future benefits.
The DWP’s definition of benefit fraud is when “someone obtains state benefits to which they are not entitled or willfully fail to report a change in their personal circumstances.”
The most common type of benefit fraud is when a person receives unemployment benefit while working and another is when a person reports living alone but is financially supported by a partner or spouse.
If you provide false information or fail to inform them of a “change in circumstances” such as moving or moving in with someone, this may be considered an offense. “Fraud by omission” – this includes if someone has died and leaving you money accordingly.
Of course, this is all very stressful for a number of people – especially if you are told that you have committed fraud and will be investigated as it is often said that they can come to your office. home or work anytime. But having knowledge about their investigations can help and take away some of the stress you might be having.
So to help anyone under stress, what happens during an investigation?
If the DWP is going to initiate an investigation, they will notify you either in writing, by phone, or by email, although this is usually done by post.
When you are notified, you will also be informed whether you should be visited by a fraud investigation officer or if they ask you to attend an interview.
DWP investigators would be allowed to collect many types of evidence against a potentially fraudulent claimant. 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.
Evidence that can be used to build a case includes:
Inspectors’ reports on surveillance activities
Photographs or Videos
Financial data, including bank statements
Interviews with you or people you know
Any evidence submitted by those who reported you
Another common form of benefit fraud is misrepresenting income, or not fully reporting it.
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 and search your online profiles for photos, location records, and other evidence that can also be used as evidence. If what they see online doesn’t match what the individual told them, that evidence can end up being used against them.
Common examples of benefit fraud
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
Fake accounts to make it look like a person has less money than they claim
The DWP will need evidence to show that a person is receiving a benefit to which they would not normally be entitled.
What if I am falsely reported to the DWP?
False claims of benefit fraud are quite common, with some studies indicating that there are approximately 140,000 false claims each year.
Until investigators find evidence against you, there is nothing you can do and at that point there is no case against you.
Don’t stress if this happens, just cooperate and remember that those who have made false claims for malicious reasons may end up being prosecuted.
If you are concerned about a current or future DWP investigation against you or someone you care about, seeking legal advice may help.
Citizens Advice Scotland may also be able to offer free and unbiased advice, you can contact them here.
You can report fraud by calling MonGov. Scottish free on 0800 158 2071 or by post here.