If you are suspected of benefit fraud or subject to an investigation then you should seek legal advice from a solicitor immediately.
The DWP and local authorities are cracking down on benefit fraud in a big way and the media are constantly reporting cases in which claimants have been prosecuted for benefit fraud.
Due to the government looking to save money on benefit fraud, increased resources have been given to fraud investigators. This has led to a big rise in the amount of benefit fraud investigations taking place each year.
Most investigations start with a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or the local authority compliance officer which invites a claimant to attend either a criminal investigation interview under caution or customer compliance interview.
Seeking immediate legal advice at this stage is the best way to protect yourself from a loss of benefits or a criminal prosecution which could result in overpaid benefits being recovered by the DWP or local authority.
Failing to tell the DWP or local authority about your true financial circumstances when you claimed a means tested benefit or if your circumstances changed during the claim. For example, you did not declare all your savings or income because you knew that it would affect your entitlement to the benefit.
Not telling the DWP or local authority about your true household situation. For example, if you were living with someone but claiming benefits as a lone parent
Using a false ID or using false documentation to claim benefits. An example could be using a fake passport or driving licence to make a claim for income support.
Deliberately failing to tell the DWP or local authority about a change of circumstances because you knew that it would affect your entitlement to the benefit, this could be an increase in capital or income or your disability improving to a point whereby you may no longer satisfy the criteria for a disability related benefit such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
Disability benefit fraud is a serious crime, and can carry a large fine or even a prison sentence. If you have been accused of disability benefit fraud, it’s important to seek legal advice.
Disability benefit fraud is the act of claiming disability benefit when you don’t need to. There are a variety of different ways a person can commit disability benefit fraud:
Exaggerating or being dishonest about being disabled to claim disability benefits.
Intentionally with holding relevant information regarding your disability, i.e. if your condition has improved or your condition has healed.
You may have been contacted by the DWP or local authority because you have been overpaid benefit. This is not necessarily fraud but can run parallel to a fraud investigation. If this happens I can assist with the civil appeal and refer you to a specialist criminal lawyer that can deal with any possible criminal proceedings. I find that on occasions overpayments are incorrectly calculated by the DWP or local authority investigating authority. By reducing the overpayment amount it can have a big difference on whether you are prosecuted and possibly subject to further criminal recovery proceedings.
If the fraud investigators are under the impression that you have committed a benefit offence they will probably interview you under caution. If you are asked to attend an interview under caution, you should seek legal assistance straight away and not attend the appointment by yourself.
It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible as there can be grave consequences in terms of criminal prosecution, recovery of overpayments and possible eviction from your home if you do not assist the local authority with their investigations.
Types of situations when you may be accused of housing benefit fraud.
Not declaring all of your income, including money earned from employment or a private pension to the local authority.
Not declaring all of your savings or capital, this could include shares, bonds and business interests.
Not declaring all of the properties or land that you own in the UK and abroad.
Not being honest about who lives in your property.
Not declaring a change of address but still claiming housing benefit for a property you no longer live i
Claiming to be the tenant when actually the homeowner.
Claiming that your tenancy is a commercial one when it is really a non-commercial one and you have not disclosed your relationship with your landlord
Claiming that your rent is higher than it actually is.
If you are being investigated for benefit fraud, it is essential that you seek legal advice, even if you believe the allegations are false. I have over 18 years’ experience in dealing with welfare benefits appeals and I am one of the few solicitors in the country that specialises in this area of law. I take on clients from all over England and find that most of the work can be done over the phone, email and skype but if a face to face appointment is needed this can also be arranged.
Due to the changes in public funding, legal aid is no longer available for welfare benefits appeals but I can usually offer a fixed fee service.
I would be delighted to help you with your legal matters.
For a free initial consultation please call 0203 9729011 or email me using the contact form below.