Benefit fraud is a serious offense and the likelihood of being caught is increasing. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have numerous ways of finding out if people are committing benefit fraud, including their Benefit Fraud-line that people are encouraged to phone if they suspect someone of committing the offense. This is a crime that frustrates the public as a whole, who are upset that whilst they are working hard to make ends meet whilst others are sitting at home and claiming benefits that they are not entitled to.
What exactly does benefit fraud entail?
Benefit fraud can be committed in two ways. It could be that your personal circumstances have changed and you didn’t report that change. Alternatively, it may be that you have been dishonest in order to claim benefits that you were not entitled to. You will be informed that you are suspected of benefit fraud and you may immediately stop receiving the benefit concerned. An investigation will be Carried out by Fraud Investigation Officers in conjunction with the relevant governmental department. This may mean that you have to be interviewed under caution about your benefit claims.
What could happen to me?
Each investigation is very different and will take into account the amount of money involved as well as your personal circumstances. If you are worried about an investigation and need benefit fraud advice, you should speak with an expert who can advise you on your individual case.
In general terms, the fraud investigation officers will look into your case and compile evidence to prove or disprove the accusation. They will then decide whether it is appropriate for further action to be taken against you. If they feel that there is evidence that you have done something wrong, you could be taken to court. For less serious offenses, you may be asked to pay a penalty instead of going to court, your benefits could be stopped or reduced and you could be asked to repay any over payments.
If you are taken to court, the penalties vary with each individual case. In October 2013, a Derby-shire woman was found guilty of benefit fraud totaling over £35,000. The circumstances of the case were that she was claiming benefits that she was not entitled to since her partner lived with her and worked full-time. She did not notify the DWP of this change in her personal circumstances and continued to claim benefits.
As would be expected when such a large amount of money was involved, the woman was given a custodial sentence. However, her eight month sentence was suspended for 18 months so if she does not commit any other offenses during those 18 months, she may never have to serve time in prison. She was also given an 18 month supervision order and 180 hours of unpaid community work.
Each case is different and your personal circumstances and reason for the fraudulent claim may be taken into account when a sentence is passed.