Benefit fraud is a criminal offence that occurs when someone lies to obtain state benefit they are not entitled to or deliberately fails to report a change in their personal circumstances.
This means that anyone who has committed benefit fraud can be prosecuted and, if convicted, receive a criminal record.
Benefit fraud is estimated to cost the UK £1.5 billion a year according to figures published in the National Fraud Indicator 2011 by the National Fraud Authority.
Examples of benefit fraud are:
- Someone claiming housing benefits when they are not entitled to them, or claiming for more than they are entitled to.
- Someone working and not declaring the work that they do.
- Someone who does not declare a partner who is living with them.
- Someone who has a resident partner who works and does not declare the work.
- Someone who does not declare their children have left home.
- Someone claiming disability allowances when they are not entitled them.
- Someone claiming a carer’s allowance when they are not entitled to it.
- Failing to tell the authorities about a change in circumstances that means they are no longer entitled to benefits.
- Someone who has left a property they have continued to claim benefit for or never moved into a property they are claiming for.
- Someone with undeclared savings or other assets.
- Someone who receives income including other benefits and tax credits that have not been declared
- Someone who has not disclosed they are going abroad, living abroad, or has changed address.
Benefit fraud is not a victimless crime. Benefit cheats are stealing from everyone who pays taxes and who claims benefits legitamately, including the people who need it most.
If you are told you are claiming benefits when you are not you could be a victim of identity theft, whereby fraudsters are claiming benefit in your name.
Consequences of benefit fraud:
- Paying the stolen money back
- Criminal record
- Termination or reduction of benefit
- Loss of home or possessions
- Prison sentence
You could have your benefit stopped or reduced for four weeks if you are convicted, cautioned or given an administrative penalty for a first offence of benefit fraud. If you are convicted of two separate benefit fraud offences within five years, you could have your benefit stopped or reduced for even longer.
If you have information about suspected benefit fraud please call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use our secure Giving Information Form.
To report changes in circumstances which may affect your benefits please visit the Directgov website.