Press release

Campaign says no compromise in crackdown on benefit fraud

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

We've launched a major advertising campaign targeted at nearly 50 towns and cities across the country.

Benefits. Are you doing the right thing?

A range of television and radio adverts, posters, letters and Facebook ads will be used in each region to urge claimants to report changes in their circumstances or risk a jail sentence.

The advert displays a map pin icon landing on the region and tells claimants if their circumstances have changed to ‘call us to update your claim before we call you.’

Department for Work and Pensions Minister Mark Harper said:

We are giving benefit claimants every opportunity to tell us if their circumstances have changed, as the majority do. But those who cheat the system need to know we will use everything in our power to stop them stealing money from hardworking taxpayers, and that they could land themselves in jail when they’re caught.

Our fraud investigators have new and better methods of detecting benefit cheats so it’s becoming harder to hide and more difficult to escape punishment.

Area Fraud Investigator Jane Baker said:

What might seem like a white lie can quickly escalate into a serious case of fraud, with the claimant suddenly finding themselves owing thousands of pounds to the taxpayer and risking a prison sentence.

We’ve seen far too many people taking this road and regretting it later. So our message is to tell us about changes to your circumstances or be prepared for the consequences.

Ministers are highlighting the types of fraud that are hiking up the estimated £1.1 billion benefit fraud bill (2013/14), such as:

  • people who fail to tell us a partner has moved in
  • people who don’t notify us if there is more money coming in

The campaign also appeals to members of the public to call the benefit fraud hotline if they suspect someone is claiming benefits illegally. Calls to the hotline topped 150,000 in the last year, an average of more than 600 calls every working day.

Ministers have also announced that there is a new tool in the armoury for cracking down on benefit fraud, with the ability to now cross-check benefit claims against Real Time Information (RTI) on earnings and pension income from HMRC. Previously this data was submitted by employers annually, potentially resulting in thousands of pounds of overpayments before discovering fraud or an error.

In the last year the government recovered more than £1.3 billion in fraudulent payments. In addition to RTI, it has also introduced a raft of measures to counter benefit fraud, like:

  • introducing tough new rules so that 40% of individuals’ benefits can be taken to repay stolen cash – on top of any fine or custodial sentence handed out by the courts
  • increasing penalties that someone committing fraud can receive from £2,000 to £5,000, without taking them to court
  • using bailiffs to confiscate high-value possessions from convicted benefit fraudsters
  • continuing to roll out Universal Credit to more sites, which is expected to reduce fraud by £1 billion in 5 years when it is fully in place across the country
  • extending the loss of benefit for offences which result in a conviction of 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks for a second offence and 3 years for a third offence
  • issuing a new £50 civil penalty for claimants who negligently give incorrect information on their claim or fail to report a change in circumstances which results in an overpayment

Useful telephone numbers

Claimants who are unsure about what changes affect their claim can call these numbers.

For information on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Incapacity Benefit (IB), Income Support (IS) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) –
0345 608 8545.

For information on Pension credit – 0345 6060 265.

More information

The campaign will run for 6 weeks from the 21 October.

Call the national benefit fraud hotline on 0800 854 440 to report suspected benefit fraud or visit www.gov.uk/dotherightthing

Real Time Information (RTI) is the new system for collecting Pay As You Earn tax information from employers and pension providers, who are now required to provide HMRC with income details immediately after each payment they make. Fraud investigators have been using RTI since August for claims of JSA, ESA and Pension Credit where claimants have either failed to declare or under-declared earnings and occupational pensions. From this month it will be used to cut down on fraudulent claims of Housing Benefit.

Contact Press Office

Media enquiries for this press release – 0203 267 5112

Press Office

Caxton House
Tothill Street

London
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Published 21 October 2014