Benefit fraud occurs when you claim benefits (often in the form of financial, medical or food assistance) to which you are not entitled. For example, you could fail to report a change in your circumstances or provide false information. If this comes to the attention of the office paying the benefit, a benefit fraud investigation is likely to follow.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the benefit fraud investigation procedure so you can understand what happens when someone is investigated for benefit fraud.
The Benefit Fraud Investigation Process
The benefit fraud investigation procedure typically follows the following structure:
Step 1: Initial Contact
If you are being investigated for benefit fraud, you may be contacted by the office responsible for the benefit in question. This is likely to be the Department for Work and Pensions, HMRC, your local authority, or someone from the Service and Personnel Veterans Agency. The method of communication will depend on the office who is contacting you and which of your details are available to them. The office may contact you via different means, depending on if you respond and the severity of the benefit fraud investigation.
Step 2: Suspension of Benefit Payments
While you are being investigated for benefit fraud, you may receive a letter informing you that your benefit may be temporarily suspended.
Step 3: Interview Under Caution
The third step in the benefit fraud investigation procedure is being interviewed under caution. The office which provides your benefit needs to collect as much information and evidence as possible. As a result, you could be visited by an FIO (Fraud Investigation Officer) or invited to an investigatory interview, i.e. an ‘interview under caution’.
This interview process if formal and may be recorded to collect evidence in a criminal investigation against you. The information gathered will be used to determine the office’s next steps in the benefit fraud investigation. So, it’s important to get advice from a specialist benefit fraud lawyer during this step.
Step 4: Further Investigation
Following on from the interview under caution, officers may continue to collect information as part of the benefit fraud investigation process. For example, they may attempt to interview people who know you.
Step 5: Consequences
The final step in the benefit fraud investigation procedure is the outcome. If the FIOs decide you are guilty of benefit fraud, the consequences can vary. They can tell you to pay back the overpaid money, take you to court, ask you to pay a penalty between £350 to £5,000 and reduce or stop your benefits for up to three years.
If you are found not guilty, you should be able to claim back your benefits that were temporarily stopped while you were investigated for benefit fraud.
Only sanctionable benefits can be stopped or reduced. If you commit benefit fraud on a benefit that isn’t sanctionable, your other benefits may be reduced instead. However, if you receive any of the ‘exception’ benefits, none of your benefits can be stopped or reduced.
- Carer’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Industrial Death Benefit
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- 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
Benefits That Can’t be Reduced or Stopped:
- 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
- Maternity Allowance
- Statutory Adoption Pay
- Statutory Maternity Pay
- Statutory Paternity Pay
- Statutory Sick Pay
We hope this guide helps you to understand better the benefit fraud investigation procedure and what to expect if you are investigated for benefit fraud. If you suspect you might be investigated for benefit fraud or tax credit fraud, get in touch with our team of experienced fraud barristers.