Reporting Benefit Fraud - What to do if you think someone is Committing Benefit Fraud.

One of the reasons that the government has to implement strict benefit reforms is because of the amount of money that is being spent on fraudulent or false benefit claims. This is where people are claiming for a benefit that they are not actually entitled to receive. It could be that they are claiming Disability Living Allowance when there is nothing wrong with them or their condition does not affect their lives in the way they say it does.

It could be someone who is claiming Housing Benefit when they have a lodger living with them without declaring his/her presence or someone who says they are entitled to Jobseekers Allowance when they are working for cash in hand. Every way in which you claim benefits by giving false information is benefit fraud and it costs the government a huge amount of money each year that could be used for other things such as better provision for people who actually do need it.

Between 2010 and 2011 benefit fraud cost the government 1.2 billion pounds, a figure that if added back to the national deficit would reduce it greatly. If people continue to claim benefits fraudulently then the government is going to need to cut back on the amount of benefits again and again just to keep this national deficit manageable.

Why should you report benefit fraud?

If you know or have a strong suspicion that someone is committing benefit fraud you should report them straight away. Government agencies often have no idea that a person is committing benefit fraud as the people who do this can be very clever. If you know for example that someone is claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Income Support but you have seen them working somewhere then report them to the agency involved.

When you fill a form in to apply for a benefit you have to provide proof of your circumstances, such as bank statements. If you are being paid cash in hand not only do the benefits agencies not know that you are getting that money then neither does the Inland Revenue so the person could also be guilty of tax evasion.

Some people think that reporting benefit fraud is wrong or underhand, but actually it is an act of mercy. If these people are caught then the money that was being wasted on them can go towards people who actually live in desperate situations. For example while the person committing the fraud is raking it in, maybe living in luxury another family has children that do not have enough to eat or clothes to wear, by reporting it you are helping the poor family.

If you think it is wrong to report it, how much worse is it to actually be taking money away from the poor family, or the disabled child that cannot go anywhere without her Motability car, or the old person dying of hyperthermia as they cannot afford both the rent and fuel?

How easy is it to report benefit fraud?

Extremely easy as there are several ways that you can both report the fraud and also do it anonymously should you prefer to.

If you want to report the fraud online it is possible to download this form – Complete Benefit Thieves Reporting Form, which is found on the Department for Work and Pensions website. This form will give you the chance to provide a huge amount of information about the person committing the fraud up to and including their description, the type of car they drive and exactly what benefit fraud they are guilty of. If they are guilty of more than one benefit you can fill in multiple reports.

If you wish to report the claim over the telephone or in writing you can do so but you need lots of information in the report to do so. If you wish to report the fraud by telephone you need to call the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440 between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You do not have to pay for this call from a landline as it is an 0800 number, but you may be charged if you call from a mobile phone.

If you have problems either speaking or hearing you can use the national textphone number which is 08003280512 and if you only speak Welsh there is a separate number for you as well. This is 0800 6783722 and is also available from 8am to 6pm on Mondays through to Fridays. The people that run the hotline advise that the numbers are always much less busy between 8am and 9am in the morning so if you need to avoid having to wait, try to ring at that time.

As previously mentioned you do not have to disclose any of your personal details when you file the report if you prefer not to. It doesn’t matter which method of filing the report that you use, if you wish to remain anonymous you are at liberty to do so.

The people that run the National Benefit Fraud Hotline in Preston would prefer it if you did at least give a name and telephone number if you wouldn’t mind as this would make it possible for the investigator to contact you for further information if they need any. If you want to make your claim in writing you need to send it to: NBFH, PO Box 224, Preston, PR1 1GB. All reports of benefit fraud are taken in strict confidentiality so if you do leave your name and number, the person who is committing the fraud will not be allowed to know who it is who reported them.

What information will you need to give the benefit agency

When you give the information to the Benefit Fraud Hotline you need to make sure it is detailed and relevant. Fraud cases will only be investigated if the Hotline personnel are absolutely convinced there is the possibility of fraud actually occurring so you need to be very specific. You need to provide a description of the person committing the fraud so that investigators know what they look like if they decide to investigate in person. To this effect they will also need their full name, address, telephone number and date of birth if you have it.

You also need to let the Hotline personnel know which benefit you think they are claiming fraudulently and why, with as many details as possible. For example, you could say – “I know that John Smith is claiming Jobseekers Allowance, as I have gone with him to claim it in the past. I have seen him driving a new car however, and in the pub he has been telling everyone about a really great new job he has and yet he is still claiming his benefit every Friday”.

If you have any idea of the job that you suspect he/she is being employed at you should provide these details and it is also a good idea to give information about the car that they drive including make, model and number plates if you can get this information. This will also help the investigators to track the person while they look into the claim.

So you have reported benefit fraud, what happens now?

As far as you are concerned nothing will happen at all. The Benefit Fraud Investigation Service is not allowed to tell people the outcome of their investigation any more than they can tell the person being investigated who reported them. If you do not give enough information the Benefit Fraud Investigation Service will not even be able to look into the claim which is why it is important to give as much information as possible.

If they do decide that there is enough information to look into the situation they will launch a full investigation which can include talking to the person in question, following up on the employment information or even just checking their claim to see if there are any discrepancies.

If no action appears to have been taken it could be that the person has reported the change of circumstances but still falls into the criteria to make them eligible for the benefit. If this is not the case however, and the claimant has been claiming fraudulently then the Benefit Fraud Investigation Service will pursue them with the full weight of the law. This can include not only having the benefit stopped but also being made to pay back the overpayment of the benefit and even in extreme cases will lead to the perpetrator ending up in prison.