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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

How your benefit claim is checked for benefit fraud

Benefit thieves cost the public millions of pounds in stolen benefits. In 2008-09 an estimated £900 million was lost due to benefit fraud. Find out how you can help prevent benefit fraud when you are making a claim to benefit.

You can help to defeat benefit fraud

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) check benefit claims to make sure public money goes to people who need it.

The information you give to support your benefit claim is checked by DWP to make sure it is correct. This helps DWP work out if you're entitled to any benefit and how much you can claim.

Routine checks on your benefit claim

At the beginning of your claim, DWP will make enquiries to check the information you have given is accurate.

What you have said or written on the claim form may be compared with records about you held by another government agency. For example, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) may be asked if you're paying tax and working or to confirm your stated earnings.

Information about you may also be shared with local authorities who must check claims before administering Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

Checks can be made by DWP at any time, not just when you first make a claim. Sometimes a check is made on everyone getting a certain benefit or on a particular group of people who claim it.

You can help limit benefit fraud by making sure the information you give is up to date and correct, and by working with DWP when checks are made.

Providing evidence to support your claim

You may be asked to support your claim with evidence of for example your income and capital.

You'll also need to give your National Insurance number, or apply for one if you don't have one. If you cannot remember your National Insurance number, you will be asked for information like your date of birth and address. This is so your National Insurance number can be found.

What happens if there is a problem with your claim

If the enquiries made by DWP about you don't match what's in your claim, authorised DWP Fraud Investigators may visit you at home or ask you to attend an interview to discuss the matter.

Your claim can't be paid until these checks are complete, so it is important you go to the interview and reply promptly to any letters about the investigation. Help and advice on what happens if you encounter problems with your benefit claim can be found by following the link below.

Detailed checks on your benefit claim

If benefit officers believe your claim is fraudulent, DWP Fraud Investigators will look at it in more detail. They may gather information about you and family members then compare it with information already given on claim forms or in interviews.

Fraud Investigators may contact private and other public organisations that hold information on you including:

  • banks
  • building societies
  • credit providers
  • credit card companies
  • money transmission companies
  • insurance companies
  • credit reference agencies
  • education providers
  • water, gas and electricity providers
  • telecoms companies including mobile phone companies
  • the Student Loans Company
  • government agencies including HMRC
  • overseas authorities

Officers can only make enquiries where they have reasonable grounds to believe you’re committing benefit theft or helping someone else to do so.

Personal information and your rights

DWP collects and keeps information about you relating to any benefits you claim. It's allowed by law to cross check this information and share it with certain other organisations and other government departments.

The Data Protection Act 1998 gives you a right by law to know what personal information is held about you by organisations. It is enforced by the Information Commission, who can be contacted by telephone on 01625 545 745. Lines are open 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

To find out more about how the Data Protection Act affects you, you can download a leaflet on the DWP website.

Where to get help

If you're concerned about checks on your benefit claim or being asked to give evidence, you can get help from organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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