As Britain shivers, fraud investigators at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are finding new ways of cracking down on benefit thieves who are living the sunshine lifestyle on taxpayers’ money.
Fraud officials have joined forces with overseas counterparts to target Brits in countries where the most abroad fraud is carried out, including Spain and America, and even as far afield as Thailand and Sweden.
Top scams include:
- people not declaring that they have moved abroad
- unreported deaths - where relatives or other third parties continue to claim
- working overseas
- unreported assets - such as properties, savings or even yachts
- exaggerated disability
Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform said:
Abroad fraud cost the taxpayer around £66 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.
We are determined to stop benefit thieves stealing from the British taxpayer and recently launched our hotline in Portugal to make it even easier to report benefit crime.
The Portuguese hotline adds to the existing dedicated service available in Spain, the two main hotspots for expat benefit fraud activity.
Fraud investigators work with overseas organisations, such as land registries, as well as the Foreign Office and UK banks in order to track down benefit cheats.
One benefit cheat recently caught after a call to the hotline was Angela Walker, of Birmingham, who was living in Granada, Spain.
She had claimed more than £10,000 of Income Support since 2006, despite living with a partner and living abroad.
She pleaded guilty to the charges in November 2010 and must now repay the cash, as well as £100 prosecution costs. The judge also sentenced her to a 12 month Community Order and 150 hours unpaid work.
Note to editors
Four countries with the most identified ‘abroad fraud’: