5 Feb 2014

Is 'abroad fraud' really over 6% of total benefit fraud?

Millions of pounds were claimed by benefits cheats living abroad last year for family members who had died, it has been revealed.

Benefit fraud committed abroad cost the taxpayer an estimated £84million in 2012/13. Previous years' figures for 'abroad fraud' are here, here, here and here.

But the problem with publicising big numbers for 'abroad fraud' is that they then make up too large a part of the overall benefit fraud total - now more than 6%.

How likely is that, considering the small number of overseas claimants relative to the overall total?

According to the DWP, 'abroad fraud' is now the third largest type of fraud with investigators looking into 7,296 cases of suspected abroad fraud in 2013.‬ Pension Credit made up the majority of the fraudulently claimed money at £52m, while £19m was claimed for housing benefit and a further £12m claimed for income support.

Investigators have suggested a number of those investigated had been receiving the benefits from Britain for family members who had died. The Government is planning to increase the use of life certificates this year to stop fraudsters continuing to claim benefits where the claimant has died.

It is also planning to increase data sharing so foreign countries tell the British government about overseas claimants.‬ In 2010 the government said it was employing DWP officers based abroad. How successful was that, then?

‪The majority of suspected benefits cheats investigated were living in Spain, with 769 cases looked into. Pakistan was the next highest with 628 while Turkey was the third highest with 298 cases.

‪Richard West, head of the DWP's counter-fraud teams said:
Cases range from people hiding foreign assets and homes to those moving aboard, either temporarily or permanently, at the taxpayers’ expense.‬ Benefit cheats need to know that even if they are out of the country our teams will still investigate, and where necessary bring them back to the UK to face justice.‬
Other fraudulent claims include where claimants leave Great Britain after their claim starts and not notifying the DWP before leaving the country.

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