Eight things the Government will look at if they investigate your benefits – does it apply to you?

THERE are eight things the Government will look at if they investigate your benefits claim.

A new £613million plan has been launched to put an end to billions of pounds being lost in benefit mistakes and fraud.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is setting up a new team of 2,000 staff to review more than two million existing Universal Credit claims.

The move is an attempt to the tackle the £4billion of taxpayers’ money being lost to fraud and error over the next five years.

The DWP’s strategy has been laid out in its “Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System” plan.

More than 20million people in the UK are claiming State Pension or benefits from the DWP to help them with additional day-to-day costs.

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The new team will review the Universal Credit claims the DWP deems are at risk of being incorrect, including suspicious cases made during the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021, there was an estimated £6.3bn of welfare fraud, a rise from £2.8bn the year before, coupled with £2.1bn of error, according to the DWP.

The combined loss as a result of fraud and error was £8.4bn, equivalent to 3.9 per cent of benefit expenditure.

Benefit fraud is deemed as "someone obtaining state benefit they are not entitled to or deliberately failing to report a change in their personal circumstances," according to the DWP.

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The most common form is when a person receives unemployment benefits while working.

Another common example is when a claimant says they live alone, but are financially supported by a partner or spouse.

If you fail to inform the DWP about a “change of circumstances” – such as if a partner is now living with you, if you have moved home, or if you have inherited any money, you may be viewed to have committed fraud by omission.

Investigators often wear plain clothes and can show up at a claimant’s home or work at any time.

In most cases, benefits-related fraud occurs where someone has claimed benefits to which they are not entitled to on purpose, such as not reporting a change in circumstances or by declaring false information.


These can include faking an illness or injury to get unemployment or disability benefits or failing to report income from a business or employment to make income appear lower than it actually is.

Other examples include living with someone who contributes to the household income without declaring that income to the authorities, or falsifying accounts to make the claimant appear to have less money.

The DWP requires proof to show that someone is receiving a benefit that they would not normally be entitled to.

Fraud investigators are armed with a wide range of powers which allows them to gather evidence in a number of ways, such as surveillance, interviews and document tracing.


The new proposals will see these powers extended to include executing warrants, search and seizure of evidence and even making arrests.

Claimants won’t know the exact details of an investigation against them until they are told about it afterwards.

It is commonly perceived that the only people who get investigated for benefits fraud and other offences involving the DWP are those who are openly scamming the system but this is not the case.

The DWP does act on reports from the public but has its own means of detecting when fraudulent activity might be occurring.

In short, anyone receiving benefits from the DWP could be investigated at any time.


If the DWP wants to launch a formal investigation, they must first notify the person either in writing, by telephone or email.

Once notified, the person will be told whether they will be visited by a Fraud Investigation Officer (FIO), or made to attend an interview.

When enough evidence of potential fraud has been gathered, officers launch an official investigation and notify the person.

Common types of evidence collected can be reports from surveillance activities, photographs or videos, audio recordings, correspondence, financial data and interviews.

People claiming unemployment benefits who are seen to visit a workplace might fall onto the DWP's radar.

Investigators can talk to the owner or manager of the business to find out just why the person is there, what work they are doing and how much they are being paid.

They can also check the person's social media accounts and search their online profiles for pictures, location check-ins, and other potential evidence.

Some studies have shown that false reports of benefit fraud are common in the UK, with around 140,000 made each year.

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A person being investigated is advised to cooperate as best as possible until the DWP determines whether there is a case against them.

Citizens Advice may also be able to offer free and impartial advice.

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