‘Anyone trying to con us will get caught out:’ DWP warning to Universal Credit claimants

Martin Lewis: 500,000 more people now eligible for Universal Credit

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Millions of Universal Credit claimants could see their bank accounts checked this festive period as part of a Government clampdown on benefit fraud costing half a billion pounds. The warning comes just two weeks before Christmas as the Government says it is sending a clear message to fraudsters that they will not get away with cheating the system.

Nearly six million people are claiming Universal Credit because they are either out of work or in low paid employment.

However, around £900million is thought to be lost every year in benefit fraud.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) defines benefit fraud as when someone obtains state benefit they are not entitled to or deliberately fail to report a change in their personal circumstances.

The latest figures available show that approximately £900 million was lost in 2019 to 2020.

While the Government is keen to recoup taxpayer’s money it has warned fraudsters that they will not get away with it.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Investing in measures to fight fraud protects honest taxpayers’ money and stops criminals funding their illicit activities off the back of our welfare system.

“We know the characteristics of a suspicious claim.

“This half-a-billion-pound cash injection is a clear message to fraudsters and criminal gangs.

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She continued: “Anyone trying to con us will get caught out.”

The project will involve double checking claimants’ bank details and the earning declarations of the self-employed.

According to the Manchester Evening News, the DWP recently joined forces with West Midlands Police to discover that one woman made 14 Universal Credit claims using false identity documents to swindle £270,000 of taxpayers money.

The number of people claiming Universal Credit doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic with nearly six million now asking for the Government help.

Over the last few months thousands of claimants have been asked to prove their identity or pay some of this money back.

This has led to claims that the DWP is demanding repayments from anyone who has failed to respond to a request for evidence.

Claire Hall, a solicitor at Child Poverty Action Group said legitimate claimants are being penalised.

“Just as families are getting back on their feet, many of those who lost their jobs when the pandemic first hit are being put through a second ordeal by the DWP.”

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Meanwhile a DWP spokesperson said: “At the onset of the pandemic we suspended certain verification processes as we could no longer see customers face-to-face, making customers aware that we may return to seek this verification in the future.

“Those who can prove entitlement in a reasonable timeframe will not be asked to repay any money.

“We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure public money is properly spent.

“Therefore it is right and lawful that we seek to recover payments that claimants were not entitled to.”

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