In the UK, benefit fraud is a major cost to the government. Following the 2010 announcements of cuts to take place in all sectors, the £1.5bn a year lost through benefit fraud had to be significantly reduced. Further checks on claimants and whistle blower hotlines are all in place to expose fraudsters and false claimants. Prosecution and large fines loom over accused thieves who turn to criminal defence solicitors to try and free their consciences. So what does a fraudulent claim entail?
False Claims Surrounding Job Seeker’s Allowance
Once a person works over 16 hours they are no longer eligible to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). Some people however, avoid using their National Insurance number in a job so they can then claim Job Seeker’s Allowance whilst working without the government knowing. Some people fail to inform the Department of Work and Pensions that they are working in a self-employed position in order to claim benefits and avoid paying tax. This is also classed as benefit fraud.
False Claims Surrounding Housing and Residence
There are many different false claims that can be made in regards to housing and living arrangements. Some people deliberately fail to disclose changes in their living arrangements so they can claim benefits at a higher rate. Others create fictitious tenants and landlords in order to start or increase a claim. Housing benefit fraud can result in prosecutions, fines and benefit withdrawal.
Failing to disclose living arrangements means a person could be claiming more than they are legally entitled to. Many people fail to notify their council if they move house. Different house sizes, locations and councils affect the amount the person is allowed to claim. Living arrangements, in the sense of who’s living in the house, affect a claimant’s entitlement. In some instances, parents still falsely claim for children who are no longer residing at the stated address, which is a prosecutable offence.
Landlords and tenants also make false claims surrounding phantom living arrangements. Some homeowners create a fictitious landlord which implies they are renting their accommodation. They often forge tenancy agreements and rent books in order to claim housing benefit. A landlord who continues to claim the benefits for a person who is no longer a tenant of theirs at the address stated is committing benefit fraud.
An agreement between families or friends in which they create a fictitious tenancy for a person who would be living at the address anyway often takes place so they can share the benefit money.
Failing to disclose information on properties, income and savings a person owns is considered benefit fraud. People generally do this in order to claim benefits at a higher rate, there are now routine checks in place to expose people who hide vital information.
Results of Benefit Fraud
Anyone accused of benefit fraud will usually have to be investigated by a Fraud Investigation Officer and have their benefits suspended whilst the investigation takes place. A person who is found guilty of their first benefit fraud offence will be given their first strike. Strike One results in the person losing their benefit entitlement for a four week period. Any future offences may result in benefits being withdrawn for longer. If a person believes they are wrongly accused of benefit fraud they should contact a benefit fraud solicitor to help them fight their case.