When the DWP needs to investigate an issue, it is normally because there is reason to believe someone might be trying to take advantage or defraud the system. The DWP’s definition of benefit fraud is when “someone obtains state benefits they are not entitled to or deliberately fails to report a change in their personal circumstances”. The most common form of benefit fraud is when someone continues receiving unemployment benefits while working.
How do you know if you’re being investigated by DWP?
If the DWP is going to start a formal investigation against you, they will notify you either in writing, by phone or email you.
When you are notified, you will also be told whether you are to receive a visit from a Fraud Investigation Officer (IFO).
In the early stages of the investigation, you may not be told that one is underway until the DWP has assessed whether there is good reason to formally investigate a potential case of fraud.
Many tip-offs and reports often lead to nowhere, so the DWP wants to make sure they do not waste their time on a pointless investigation.
One common form of benefit fraud is falsely reporting income, or failing to report it at all.
If you are claiming unemployment benefits but are seen at a workplace, the DWP may talk to the owner or manager to find out why you are there, what work you’re doing and how much you are being paid.
Investigators may also check social media accounts and search your profiles for pictures, location check-ins and other evidence which may be useful to them.
Those who use social media on the regular will leave behind a trail of habits, often allowing investigators to piece together what the person’s life actually looks like.
If this turns out to be inconsistent with the person’s benefits claim, the evidence may end up being used against them.
False reports of benefit fraud are commonplace in Britain, with an estimated 140,000 false claims made every year.
Even if you are the victim of a false report, until the DWP determines there is no case against you, there’s not much you can do.
If you are concerned about a current or future DWP investigation against you or a loved one, seeking legal advice or contacting Citizens’ Advice Bureau could help.