Universal Credit payments are available to a wide range of people, those who are out of work or on a low income across the UK. The DWP is responsible for ensuring the correct people receive the right amounts from the benefit system. To this end, the DWP has the power to carry out investigations into bank accounts, and potentially even social media accounts.
This action would be taken if the Department has a reason to believe benefit fraud could be taking place.
It is worth noting these powers also extend to HM Revenue and Customs, commonly known as HMRC, to ensure the Departments can share information with one another if necessary.
Under the Social Administration Act, authorities are permitted to collect information about a person, including from their bank.
Benefit fraud is unfortunately an issue which has arisen on multiple occasions, and the Government is keen to stamp this out and ensure fairness within the system.
It may be the case a person’s benefit will be stopped while investigation takes place, but they will always be informed if this is the case.
Undertaking benefit fraud investigations are Fraud Investigation Officers (FIOs) who gather facts about the case.
It is these individuals who will decide whether or not to take further action by examining the evidence compiled.
The most common types of evidence collected by investigators are:
- Financial data, including bank statements
- Audio recordings
- Inspector reports from surveillance activities
- Photographs or videos
- Interviews with the benefit fraud suspect and people they know
- Any evidence submitted by those who raised concerns about the instance of benefit fraud
Social media could also potentially be used as a tool of investigation into benefit fraud.
This is because a person’s social media account can usually provide a bigger picture of their life, such as location check-ins, photographs and activities.
If this does not match up to a benefit claim, it could be a cause for concern.
A person may also be asked to attend an ‘interview under caution’ which is a formal process, often recorded.
It could later become a part of a criminal investigation, and as such, Britons in this situation are urged to take some form of legal advice.
Unfortunately, while the DWP is committed to tackling benefit fraud, there are instances of false reports which arise.
It is sadly the case some will report others committing benefit fraud with malicious intent.
However, in this case there is little a person can do, and it is recommended to be co-operative with FIOs to ensure the process is over as quickly as possible.
Equally, though, there will be some who are found guilty of benefit fraud, and in this case, further action can be taken.
The Government has explained benefits, such as Universal Credit, can be reduced or stopped for up to three years if a person is convicted of benefit fraud.
The amount of time a benefit is stopped for is dependent on how many times a person has committed benefit fraud.