A few weeks ago a Universal Credit (UC) scam hit national headlines. Veritau is beginning to see this affect our council clients, with claims involving fictitious landlords, children and other details which just don’t add up. This is a reminder to be vigilant and on the lookout for fraudulent claims.
The BBC report that an estimated £20million in taxpayers’ money could be lost to this scam. Individuals can also become victims as they may be required to pay back loans to the DWP. Typically, a fraudster approaches a benefit claimant, offering them a government loan or grant. This is sometimes under the guise of an official Job Centre employee, but could also be offered to them by doorstep lenders. After the claimant hands over their personal details, the fraudster makes a UC application in their name. This means that any other benefits they may have been on, such as Housing Benefit or Tax Credits, are cancelled, which is often the first time they are made aware of the UC application. Once the claim is approved and the money paid into their account, the fraudster withdraws the money and disappears. The claimant is then liable to pay back some or all of the loan, often leaving them in debt.
The fraudsters applying for UC often make bogus claims with unlikely details, such as children all born on the same date in different years or children called “Lisa, Bart and Homer”. In another case a 19-year-old fraudster claimed to have six blind children.
Selby District Council received a claim form purporting to be from a 20-year-old male with eight children. Some of their names were “Shshd Shdjs” and “Dxmaja Sjdns” and several of the children were born when their father was less than five years old. In another claim, the children were born on 05/05/15, 05/05/16, 06/06/17, 15/10/14, and 15/10/16 which seems incredibly unlikely, plus their landlord lived on the same street as them, but with no house number. Checks confirmed the landlord to be fictitious. At City of York Council, tenants have had their benefits cancelled due to UC claims being made in their names unbeknown to them, after they handed details to people who they thought were doorstep lenders.
If you spot anything that looks suspicious, ring our fraud hotline on 0800 9179 247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (secure email).