Press release

'Abroad fraud' warning for benefit thieves

Warning to people who commit benefit fraud abroad.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

With summer approaching, Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is sending a warning to people who commit benefit fraud abroad.

In a visit to the DWP’s Pensions, Benefits & Healthcare team in Madrid, Iain Duncan Smith will warn British people living abroad not to break the strict rules on what benefits they can and can’t claim. He will also urge law-abiding Brits to use the dedicated Spanish fraud hotline to report benefit thieves.

People who are pretending to live in the UK to claim benefits, but are actually living overseas cost the taxpayer an estimated £43 million last year. More allegations of people living in Spain whilst continuing to receive UK benefits are received than for any other foreign country, making Spain the number one country for abroad fraud.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:

We are determined to clamp down on benefit fraud abroad, which cost the British taxpayer around £43 million last year. This money should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves overseas.

The vast majority of British people overseas are law abiding, but fraudulently claiming benefits while living abroad is a crime and we are committed to putting a stop to it.

Since its launch in 2008, over 750 calls to the Spanish hotline have resulted in criminal investigations by fraud investigators in the UK and over 100 people have been sanctioned or prosecuted. 134 cases are currently being investigated and £3.1 million in benefit over payments have been identified and will be reclaimed.

The small Pensions, Benefit & Healthcare team based in Spain provide support to the estimated 1million Britons living there. They work with the Spanish Authorities on behalf of the DWP and Department of Health to prevent and detect benefit fraud, ensure correct access to the Spanish healthcare system, and combat misuse of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

They prevent fraud by making sure British people living in Spain understand and follow the country’s systems and understand the strict rules on what they are and are not able to claim. The team support the work of fraud investigators in the UK by gathering intelligence on suspected benefit thieves and by overseeing the Spanish benefit fraud hotline.

Abroad fraud involves a range of scams such as people on means-tested benefits going abroad but failing to declare their absence, undeclared property abroad, and individuals working while claiming sickness benefits. In Spain, claims for Income Support or Pension Credit are the most frequently investigated for fraud. 

If you suspect someone of benefit fraud in Spain you can call Benefit Fraud Hotline in Spain on: 900 554 440 or you can report a thief online via:

Notes to Editors

Different benefits have different rules with regards to UK citizens claiming them abroad:

  • Disability Living Allowance (mobility), Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance (income based), Employment and Support Allowance (income based) are all ‘non exportable’, so cannot be claimed abroad.
  • Jobseekers Allowance (Contribution based) can be paid in the EU and Switzerland for three months providing the claimant registers as a jobseeker.
  • Employment and Support Allowance (contribution based) can be paid in EEA and Switzerland provided the claimant has paid enough in NI contributions to qualify.
  • Winter Fuel Payment can be paid in the EU and Switzerland provided a claimant was entitled to it before they left the UK.  It cannot be claimed for the first time from abroad.
  • Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (care), Carers Allowance, State Pension and Child Benefit can be paid abroad providing the claimant has met the UK entitlement conditions.

The Fraud and Error in the Benefit System 2010/11 estimates are published here:

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Published 16 April 2012