BENEFITS EXPERT: How Scams Awareness Month can help you

As this month Citizens Advice are running the annual Scams Awareness Month we are focussing on common benefit based scams some have increased since lockdown.

Scam Awareness Month hopes to stop fraudsters in their tracks.
Scam Awareness Month hopes to stop fraudsters in their tracks.

The DWP during lockdown did not undertake detailed ID verification for new Universal Credit claims although these are now beginning to be retrospectively checked and this may lead to an increase of fraudulent claims being spotted.

The most common Universal Credit fraud is simple identity theft, personal details are obtained and a claim is made by another person using the obtained personal details. There was also the Universal Credit fraud where people were directly approached and were active participants in making a claim for Universal Credit although they often did not know the extent to which they could be held liable and that they were engaged in fraudulent activity. The DWP will always seek to recover any overpaid/wrongly claimed benefits if the named claimant did participate, in situations where there has been no participation and ID details were obtained via other means then they will not seek to recover an overpayment from the named claimant.

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Another new method of benefit fraud that has arisen during lockdown is so called “furlough fraud”, this has been where employers have claimed government support for salaries of employees who are not actually employed. At times this has been by using personal details of former employers to obtain payments and in other occasions employers have obtained identity details of people they have no knowledge of. We have had instances of claimants living in Sunderland who find earnings being reported on their UC statements and investigations into the employer show they are in a completely different part of the country with locally based offices. This type of ID/Scam will obviously lead to a reduction or even a nil payment of UC which will obviously cause issues with the claimant losing benefit and this can often take some time to resolve. Again in this situation the wronged claimant will eventually be paid their correct benefit and won’t be penalised by the DWP in this situation.

Below is a link to CAB's advice on scams, how to avoid them and report them with advice on protecting yourself against scams.