Dishonest benefit claimants take away money from people who need it most.
What happens after you report someone
The Fraud Investigation Service will look at the information you give. If you have given enough information, they will check the person's benefit claim.
The investigation might take some time, and the Fraud Investigation Service aren't allowed to tell you the outcome.
Sometimes no action is taken. It might be that the person has declared the change in their circumstances and their benefit is not affected by it.
The Fraud Investigation Service will only take action if they find the person has been committing benefit fraud. Action can include removing a person's benefits and taking them to court.
Find out more about the Department for Work and Pensions ‘Targeting benefit thieves’ campaign by using the link below.
How your benefit claim is checked for benefit fraud
Benefit thieves cost the public millions of pounds in stolen benefits. In 2008-09 an estimated £900 million was lost due to benefit fraud. Find out how you can help prevent benefit fraud when you are making a claim to benefit.
Checks on your benefit claim
At the beginning of your claim, DWP will make enquiries to check the information you have given is accurate.
What you have said or written on the claim form may be compared with records about you held by another government agency. For example, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) may be asked if you're paying tax and working or to confirm your stated earnings.
Information about you may also be shared with local authorities who must check claims before administering Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
Checks can be made by DWP at any time, not just when you first make a claim. Sometimes a check is made on everyone getting a certain benefit or on a particular group of people who claim it.
You can help limit benefit fraud by making sure the information you give is up to date and correct, and by working with DWP when checks are made.
Providing evidence to support your claim
You may be asked to support your claim with evidence of for example your income and capital.
You'll also need to give your National Insurance number, or apply for one if you don't have one. If you cannot remember your National Insurance number, you will be asked for information (for example, your date of birth and address) so your National Insurance number can be found.
If there is a problem with your claim
If the enquiries made by DWP about you don't match what's in your claim, authorised DWP Fraud Investigators may visit you at home or ask you to attend an interview to discuss the matter.
Your claim can't be paid until these checks are complete, so it is important you go to the interview and reply promptly to any letters about the investigation. Help and advice on what happens if you encounter problems with your benefit claim can be found by following the link below.
Benefit officers checking your benefit claim:
If benefit officers believe your claim is fraudulent, DWP Fraud Investigators will look at it in more detail. They may gather information about you and family members then compare it with information already given on claim forms or in interviews.
Fraud Investigators may contact private and other public organisations that hold information on you including:
- building societies
- credit providers
- credit card companies
- money transmission companies
- insurance companies
- credit reference agencies
- education providers
- water, gas and electricity providers
- telecoms companies including mobile phone companies
- the Student Loans Company
- government agencies including HMRC
- overseas authorities
Officers can only make enquiries where they have reasonable grounds to believe you’re committing benefit theft or helping someone else to do so.
Your personal information and your rights
DWP collects and keeps information about you relating to any benefits you claim. It's allowed by law to cross check this information and share it with certain other organisations and other Government Departments.
The Data Protection Act 1998 gives you a right by law to know what personal information is held about you by organisations. It is enforced by the Information Commission, who can be contacted by telephone on 01625 545 745, (lines are open 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).
To find out more about how the Data Protection Act affects you, you can download a leaflet on the DWP website.
Where to get help
If you have any questions about your benefits, a benefit claim or an investigation, it's a good idea to contact your benefits office. You may have made a genuine mistake, or be unsure if something applies in your particular case.
If you are worried about being suspected of benefit fraud or If you're concerned about checks on your benefit claim or being asked to give evidence you may want to get independent advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
What happens if you are suspected of benefit fraud
Committing benefit fraud can lead you to being fined or facing a prison sentence. In all cases you will have to pay back the money you were not entitled to. Find out more about benefit fraud investigation and where to get advice from if you are being investigated for benefit fraud.
Report changes in your circumstances
You need to tell your benefits office about any changes in circumstances as soon as possible. They will tell you if it affects your benefit.
Some changes may mean you're entitled to new or additional benefits, but others could mean you no longer qualify for benefit, or should receive a lower amount. You may be overpaid if the benefits office doesn't know about your changed circumstances.
What happens after a benefit fraud investigation
Once Fraud Investigation Officers have collected facts about your case a decision will be made on whether or not to take further action. If there's evidence that you’re committing benefit fraud, any of the following may happen:
- you may be prosecuted
- you may be asked to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution
- your benefit may be reduced or withdrawn
- you will be asked to repay the overpaid benefit
Loss of benefits
Important changes to the rules around loss of benefit entitlement following a benefit fraud offence came into effect from 1 April 2010.
If you commit a first offence resulting in a conviction, administrative penalty or caution, it will be subject to a ‘One Strike’ sanction. This means you may lose your right to continue receiving benefit payments for a four-week period.
You will be notified if the ‘One Strike’ sanction is applied to your benefits.
If you are convicted of two separate benefit fraud offences within five years, you may find your entitlement to certain benefits is reduced or withdrawn for an even longer period.
This is known as the 'Two Strikes' sanction, and you'll be notified if it's applied to your benefits.
Benefits which can be withdrawn or reduced are called sanctionable benefits. Some of these include:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Pension Credit
Disqualifying benefits are not sanctionable themselves, but benefit fraud offences involving them may lead to a loss of benefit sanction against other benefits.
- Attendance Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Disability Living Allowance
- Retirement Pension
Some benefits, such as Tax Credits and Statutory Sick Pay, are not involved in the 'loss of benefit' sanction process at all.
If you are facing prosecution for benefit fraud or being asked to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution, it's a good idea to seek legal advice from a solicitor, or consult an experienced adviser.
The Community Legal Service (CLS) directory provides details of all solicitors, advice agencies and information providers across England and Wales who hold or have committed to its quality mark.