What are the consequences of benefit fraud?

What are the consequences of benefit fraud?

Benefit fraud costs UK taxpayers millions of pounds every year. Offenders are often caught when people they know report them to the Benefit Fraud Hotline or during routine checks. If action is being taken against you following a benefit fraud investigation, it’s important to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible.

Expert benefit fraud lawyers

At Purcell Parker we have extensive experience dealing with a wide range of fraud cases including benefit fraud. We have a proven track record of successfully representing clients in cases where they have been wrongly accused of benefit fraud as well as ensuring the best possible outcome for clients when a conviction is inevitable.

Will I be fined for benefit fraud?

If you’re found to have committed benefit fraud, you can expect a fine of between £350 and £5000, depending on the nature of the fraud. In some cases you may be given the option to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution.

Will I have to pay back the wrongly-claimed money?

In a word, yes. If you have been over-paid benefits after fraudulently claiming them, you will have to pay the money back. Not only that, you will be liable for an administrative penalty of 50% of the overpayment. So if you are found to have fraudulently claimed £1000, the administrative penalty will be £500. The minimum administrative penalty that can be imposed is £350 and the maximum is £2000.

Will I lose my benefits?

This depends on the benefit, the severity of the offence and whether you have any previous history of committing benefit fraud. However, it’s possible that your benefits will be stopped for 13 weeks, 26 weeks or a maximum of three years. In cases involving organised and/or identity fraud, you can expect a three-year penalty.

Does this apply to all my benefits?

Not necessarily. Benefits are divided into sanctionable benefits which can be withdrawn or reduced and other benefits that can’t.

Sanctionable benefits are:

  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Industrial Death Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Disability
  • Industrial Injuries Reduced Earnings Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Retirement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Unemployability Supplement
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • War Disablement Pension
  • War Widow’s Pension
  • War Pension Unemployability Supplement
  • War Pension Allowance for Lower Standard of Occupation
  • Widowed Mother’s/Parent’s Allowance
  • Widow’s Pension/Bereavement Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit

The following benefits can’t be taken away from you if you commit benefit fraud:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Bereavement Payment
  • Bereavement Support Payment
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Christmas Bonus
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Graduated Retirement Benefit
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Constant Attendance Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Industrial Injuries Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • State Pension
  • Social Fund Payments
  • War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance
  • War Pension Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

Yes. If you are claiming any of the following benefits at the time you are found guilty of committing benefit fraud, none of your benefits can be taken away from you:

  • Maternity Allowance
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay

Could I be arrested in connection with benefit fraud?

Yes. During the investigation stage, when Fraud Investigation Officers (FIOs) are establishing whether to prosecute, you are likely to be invited to attend an interview regarding your claim. This interview will take place under caution, meaning that although you are not under arrest and are free to leave at any time, the answers you do give can be used against you if the FIOs decide that there are grounds for prosecution. Due to this, it’s extremely important to take advice from one of our specialist solicitors if you are told you need to attend an interview under caution. In the more serious cases of benefit fraud, the FIOs investigation could lead to your arrest.

Can I go to prison for committing benefit fraud?

Yes, in the more serious cases of benefit fraud you could receive a sentence of anything between up to 3 months to 7 years in prison on top of any fines or costs that may also be applicable.

What other consequences of benefit fraud can I expect?

If it becomes common knowledge that you have committed benefit fraud, it can have an extremely negative effect on your personal life as well as the finances of you and your family, as public opinion tends to take a dim view of anyone perceived to be cheating the system. Any criminal record that you receive as a result of benefit fraud may also have an impact on your ability to find a job.

What should I do if I realise I’ve been mistakenly claiming benefits I’m not entitled to?

The administration around the benefits system can be confusing and it’s perfectly possible to make an honest mistake. In this situation, hoping the problem will go away or won’t be picked up on is the worst thing you can do. Your case will be given a far more sympathetic hearing if you are the one to approach the authorities with the issue. However, before you do, it’s essential to take professional advice from an experienced solicitor who will help you approach the issue in the best way.

Can I be prosecuted for a fraudulent claim in the past?

Yes you can. There is no time limit on when you can be investigated for an alleged benefit fraud. However, once a fraud has been established, there is a 6-year time limit for the Department for Work and Pensions to take court action to recover the overpayment to be instigated.

Can I appeal against the decision?

When the decision against you is made, you will have one month to appeal the decision in writing. In circumstances where you ask for a written statement of the reasons for the decision, this may be extended by another 14 days. If your request for a reconsideration results in the same decision, you may be able to appeal at an independent tribunal. Again, it’s crucial to get expert legal advice before you embark on any appeals process.

Specialist advice for benefit fraud

Here at Purcell Parker, we appreciate that being accused of benefit fraud can be both frightening and confusing. In cases where legal aid is not applicable, we can provide you with a competitive fixed-fee quote for your case. Call us for free and confidential initial advice today on 0121 236 9781.