What happens if you are suspected of benefit fraud
Committing benefit fraud can lead you to being fined or facing a prison sentence. In all cases you will have to pay back the money you were not entitled to. Find out more about benefit fraud investigation and where to get advice from if you are being investigated for benefit fraud.
What is benefit fraud
If you deliberately fail to report a change in your personal circumstances or are dishonest about information supporting your benefit claim, you are treated as committing benefit fraud.
If you are suspected of committing benefit fraud, you may be visited by Fraud Investigation officers from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or be asked to attend an interview to discuss your claim. Your benefit may be suspended while the matter is looked into. If this happens, you should receive a letter explaining what will happen next.
Reporting changes in circumstances
You need to tell your benefits office about any changes in circumstances as soon as possible. They will tell you if it affects your benefit.
Some changes may mean you're entitled to new or additional benefits, but others could mean you no longer qualify for benefit, or should receive a lower amount. You may be overpaid if the benefits office doesn't know about your changed circumstances.
- Changes that affect your benefit
Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and can be commited in a number of ways. For examples of benefit fraud use the link below:
- Reporting benefit fraud
What happens after a benefit fraud investigation
Once Fraud Investigation officers have collected facts about your case a decision will be made on whether or not to take further action. If there's evidence that youre committing benefit fraud, any of the following may happen:
- you may be prosecuted
- you may be asked to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution
- your benefit may be reduced or withdrawn
- you will be asked to repay the overpaid benefit
Loss of benefits
If you are convicted of two separate benefitfraud offences, you may find your entitlement to certain benefits is reduced or withdrawn for a disqualification period.
This is known as the 'Two Strikes' sanction, and you'll be notified if it's applied to your benefits.
Benefits which can be withdrawn or reduced are called sanctionable benefits, and include:
- Income Support
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Housing Benefit
Disqualifying benefits are not sanctionable themselves, but two benefitfraud offences involving them may lead to a 'Two Strikes' sanction against other benefits. Examples include:
- Retirement Pension
- Pension Credit
- Disability Living Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Child Benefit
Some benefits, such as Tax Credits and Statutory Sick Pay, are not involved in the 'Two Strikes' sanction process at all.
Where to get advice
If you have any questions about your benefits, a benefit claim or an investigation, it's a good idea to contact your benefits office. You may have made a genuine mistake, or be unsure if something applies in your particular case.
If you are worried about being suspected of benefit fraud, you may want to get independent advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you are facing prosecution for benefitfraud or being asked to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution, it's a good idea to seek legal advice from a solicitor, or consult an experienced adviser.
The Community Legal Service (CLS) directory provides details of all solicitors, advice agencies and information providers across England and Wales who hold or have committed to its quality mark.
- Seek legal advice from a solicitor or advice agency (Do it online)
How to appeal against a decision made about your benefits
You have the right to dispute or appeal against any benefit decision, including decisions based on the results of an investigation.
- How to appeal against a benefits decision
More useful links
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