In the newest assault on benefit fraud in the UK, the Department for Work and Pensions has disclosed that it may compel recipients of benefits like Universal Credit to provide passports as proof of identity. A claimant’s internet account may also be used by officials to obtain information, the government organization added, so individuals should be suspicious of any arbitrary requests for identification or other personal information by text or email.
The DWP stated on social media: “DWP may request that you present ID, such as your passport. To establish our identity, we always provide a message in your diary.
“Your information can be used by criminals to commit benefit and other fraud. If you believe you have been targeted, contact Action Fraud.”
According to Birmingham Live, almost 20 million individuals in the UK receive benefits, such as State Pensions and Universal Credit. Although 8,691 investigations into potential benefit fraud were carried out as of March of this year, thousands still submit false claims.
Over two million Universal Credit applicants will have their claims validated over the next five years due to a relaxation of the evidence requirements for claims submitted during the Coronavirus pandemic, which allowed for payments to be made as soon as feasible after job losses or pay reductions.
What are the most common types of benefit fraud?
Common examples of benefit fraud in the UK include:
- Faking an illness or injury to get unemployment or disability benefits
- Failing to report income from a business or employment to make income seem lower than it actually is
- Living with someone who contributes to the household income without declaring that income to the authorities
- Falsifying accounts to make it seem like a person has less money than they say they do
In July 2022, it was reported that the DWP had re-examined 1.1million Universal Credit claims, finding that in the region of 125,000 had some form of ‘element of incorrectness’. The department also says that people on benefits who go on holiday, or fail to report changes in circumstances, may be prosecuted for benefit fraud.
You could be taken to court or face hefty penalties up to £5,000 if you provide false information, or fail to report a change. In April, officials at the department busted an alleged £800,000 attack on the benefits system – in which, two suspects are said to have created 15 different identities to rake in more than three-quarters of a million in cash from fake disability claims.
What evidence can DWP ask for?
The most common types of evidence the DWP asks for to verify a benefit claim include:
- Inspector reports from surveillance activities
- Photographs or videos (this can include passports as they have photo ID)
- Audio recordings
- Financial data, including bank statements
- Interviews with you or people you know
- Any evidence submitted by those who reported you
Investigators may also check social media accounts and search online profiles for pictures, location check-ins, and other evidence.
What else is DWP doing to tackle fraud?
The DWP plans on introducing a raft of new powers, from a new civil penalty for cases of fraud to requiring organisations like banks to share data securely on an increased scale, to check people’s savings and whether people are living abroad and not eligible for UK benefits.
There are also plans to increase DWP powers to conduct searches, seize evidence and make arrests.
Back in May, the DWP announced that the Universal Credit overpayment rate had decreased by around £400 million in one year, and that the ‘tide is starting to turn on benefit fraud after record high levels during the pandemic’. The latest national statistics confirm that in the past year, fraud and error rates fell to 3.6 per cent (£8.3billion) from 4 per cent (£8.7billion), with Universal Credit losses falling from 14.7 per cent (£5.9 billion) to 12.8 per cent (£5.5 billion).
The figures also detailed reduced rates of fraud, both overall and within the Universal Credit sector. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, said: “Our welfare system provides a strong financial safety net for vulnerable people, and no one should be able to cynically abuse that for profit.
“We are cracking down on fraudsters, and today’s figures show encouraging progress as DWP works to both prevent new fraudulent claims and collar cases where people have been shamelessly exploiting the system. While we may be beginning to turn the tide on fraud, there is no room for complacency and still much to do.
“Our £900 million Fraud Plan will help us deliver savings of over £9 billion for the taxpayer over the next five years.”