Benefit fraud: What happens if you get caught committing benefit fraud?

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Approximately 1.8 million households in the UK get at least 80 percent of their income from benefits, according to figures from 2019. This number is likely to rise as a result of the declining British economic caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

For April to June 2020, the estimated UK unemployment rate for all people was 3.9 percent.

This is largely unchanged on both the year and the quarter.

However, there was a large decrease in routine occupations, down 325,000 (or 11.3 percent) on the year and 195,000 (or 7.1 percent) on the quarter.

This indicates these occupations have been most affected by the coronavirus lockdown measures introduced in March 2020.

What happens if you get caught committing benefit fraud?

If you’re suspected of benefit fraud, you will be contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency or your local authority.

You could also receive a letter saying your benefits will be stopped while you’re being investigated.

If you wish, you can be visited by Fraud Investigation Officers (FIOs) or asked to attend an interview to talk about your claim.

This is called an ‘interview under caution’.

By law, you must be cautioned before any questions can be posed to you in an interview, otherwise anything you say during the interview answers cannot then be used as evidence in court.

FIOs will gather facts about your case and decide whether to take further action.

The interview will be recorded and could become part of a criminal investigation against you.

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If you’ve committed or attempted fraud, depending on the seriousness of the situation, the following could happen:

  • you’ll be told to pay back the overpaid money
  • you may be taken to court or asked to pay a penalty (between £350 and £5,000)
  • your benefits may be reduced or stopped

However, if you commit benefit fraud and you get any of the following, none of your payments can be stopped or reduced:

  • Maternity Allowance
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay

What is benefit fraud?

You commit benefit fraud by claiming benefits you’re not entitled to on purpose, for example by:

  • not reporting a change in your circumstances
  • providing false information

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