Britons who are thinking of moving to Spain and are receiving benefits should remember to tell the authorities before finalising their plans. Failure to do so may well result in a criminal offence, warns the Department for Work and Pensions.
With the current strength of the pound against the euro, more and more Britons are interested in buying a property abroad, and Spain is one of the most popular destinations of choice.
But if you receive a UK benefit, along with packing your sun cream and forwarding your mail, telling your benefit office you are moving should be at the top of your “to do” list. Reporting a change in your circumstances such as moving abroad or buying a property is your responsibility. By failing to do so you could be committing benefit fraud, even if you do not live in Spain but have property here.
One fraudster who failed to report a change in circumstances is Dean Stuart Ahmed from Cardiff, who after claiming benefits since 1997 had not only purchased luxury properties in Murcia, Spain and South Wales but also rented them out to make a profit. Presenting himself as a single disabled person Mr Ahmed had, over 15 years, accumulated a large collection of property and assets. In September last year he was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison and his properties and assets were seized.
With large numbers of Britons moving to and living in Spain, the Department for Work and Pensions has a dedicated team in the country to investigate benefit fraud abroad and make sure UK taxpayers’ money is not being abused.
More than seven million pounds has so far been recovered from British benefit thieves living here. Much of this success is thanks to the free hotline which members of the public can call anonymously to report suspected benefit thieves. Important details which can help the team track down a fraudster include the suspect’s name and address both in Spain and in the UK.
If you know someone who you suspect is committing benefit fraud in Spain, please call the free and anonymous hotline on 900 55 44 40. The lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. You will be doing your bit to make sure that benefits – which is money that comes from taxpayers - goes to the people who really need it.