UK: Universal credit scam targeted claimants

The Doctor

Staff member
Who could have imagined? :rolleyes:

By Michael Buchanan
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

Tens of millions of pounds of public money is believed to have been stolen, with claimants left owing hundreds, after fraudsters targeted Britain's main welfare benefit, universal credit.

The BBC has been told of "money pouring out of the public purse" as criminals make "staggering" bogus online claims.

A loophole in the online system is exploited to make fraudulent applications and claim advance loans.

The government says it is determined to bring fraudsters to justice.

A benefits official told the BBC that in one job centre more than a third of claims are currently suspected of being bogus, while £100,000 of fraudulent activity each month was recorded at another branch.

Claims include one from "a 19-year-old with six blind children" and another saying "Harry Kane" (the name of the Tottenham and England footballer) was their landlord.

Another official told the BBC that the Department for Work and Pensions estimates 10% of the 100,000 or more advances paid monthly are potentially bogus.

This suggests that fraud rates on universal credit are about four times higher than on most other benefits.

Ironically, one of the original goals of universal credit was to save about a billion pounds in fraud and error.....

How does the scam work?
The fraudster contacts the claimant and says they can get them a government grant or a payday loan.
The claimant hands over their details and the fraudster makes a universal credit application on their behalf, sometimes unbeknown to the claimant.
The DWP approves the claim and transfers the money into the claimant's bank account, whereupon the fraudster demands a hefty "fee".
The scammer takes a large chunk of the cash, and disappears.
But because the money is a loan, the claimant is then left owing the entire amount to the DWP....

Claimants tricked

Messages from dozens of officials on an internal DWP message board, seen by the BBC, show the extent of the scam:

"How many more times can claimants add children named Ha, Ha and Ha to their UC claims, or add a landlord called Harry Kane, or add any other obviously made-up names to claim a UC advance?"
"This is a massive issue. They are literally making up street names and children (I have had Lisa, Bart and Homer recently, Simpsons cartoon characters) getting the money and we never hear from them again."
"A lot of what we see is uni students being approached to make a claim for a fee: 19 years old with six blind children."

The forum, which is open to operational staff within job centres, says the scam is particularly rife in the north-west of England.

"Around 200-300 new referrals every day" in the region are fictitious, wrote one official, and "at between £1,200 and £1,500 for each advance, the numbers are staggering".

Another official writes that "the loss of taxpayers' money could be in the region of £20m"....