If you are accused of benefit fraud, please speak to our benefit fraud solicitors straightaway. Benefit fraud is considered a serious offence and can lead to severe penalties – including imprisonment. You either need to submit a strong defence that proves your eligibility to receive benefits, or you need to show that your actions were not deliberately dishonest.
Our benefit fraud solicitors are highly experienced and can represent you throughout the investigation and any subsequent court proceedings. We have offices in London, Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield and Dewsbury. Wherever you live, we can help. Contact us now for a free initial enquiry.
When will I be accused of benefit fraud?
You will be accused of benefit fraud if you deliberately used deceit or dishonesty to obtain benefits. This includes housing benefits, income support, disability living allowance and pension credit, amongst others.
If you wrongfully received benefits because of a genuine mistake on your part, then this does not amount to benefit fraud. This is because you did not deceive anyone on purpose. This is the defining factor of fraud – you must have knowingly tried to defraud the benefits office, rather than accidentally claim benefits.
Such mistakes happen more often than you might think. The benefits system is complex and you may not have been aware of the rules. For instance, you may have been legitimately claiming benefits, only to suddenly become ineligible on account of saving too much money in your bank account.
Benefit fraud, on the other hand, involves intentionally withholding details to secure funds or providing inaccurate information when applying for benefits. This includes:
- Not declaring your true financial circumstances, such as your savings or your income
- Falsely exaggerating your disabilities
- Using a false identity or falsified documents
- Failing to report a change in circumstance, such as having a partner move in with you or getting a job
Informal investigations into benefit fraud
If you are suspected of benefit fraud, you will first come under an informal investigation. During this investigation you may receive a letter, asking you to confirm certain details. You may also be asked to attend a meeting or to provide proof in support of your claim.
At this stage, you are not necessarily being accused of benefit fraud – the benefits office simply wants to check that you are receiving the correct type of benefits, and the correct amount of payments.
This informal investigation may arise following a tip-off from a member of the public. Unfortunately, these are not always accurate. The purpose of starting with an informal investigation is to eliminate any false reports.
Overpayments vs benefit fraud
If the benefits office calculates that you have received an overpayment, you will be asked to repay the money. This might happen if errors were made, either by you or the benefits office.
If you accept that you have received an overpayment, you will have to repay the money. You may also receive a civil penalty if the mistake if yours. But as long as your mistake was genuine, you should not face any criminal charges. However, if there is any indication that you have been deliberately dishonest, you will be accused of benefit fraud. You will then come under a formal investigation.
Alternatively, you can challenge the decision that you received an overpayment. The benefits office may have misinterpreted the facts, in which case you will need to verify your eligibility to receive financial support.
Benefit fraud investigations
If you are accused of benefit fraud, you will be notified that a formal investigation is taking place into your conduct. This might be carried out by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), HMRC, your local authority or another government body. Their powers are far-reaching and they can place you under surveillance, obtain copies of your bank statements, and interview people you know. You may be released under investigation while they gather more evidence against you.
As part of the investigation, you may be visited by Fraud Investigation Officers or invited to an ‘interview under caution’. The interview will be recorded and anything you say can be used as evidence against you in the future. You have the right to legal representation and it is essential that you ask one of our benefit fraud solicitors to accompany you.
We can review the evidence beforehand and advise you on the best approach to take. If your mistakes were genuine, we can establish that no dishonesty took place, working to resolve the matter at the investigation stage. Alternatively, if you are rightfully entitled to receive benefits, we will confirm your eligibility.
Prosecution for benefit fraud
If the investigatory body believes there is sufficient evidence to convict you of benefit fraud, you will be formally charged. If the matter is considered serious, you will receive a court summons, asking you to attend court on a particular date. There will be a hearing, during which evidence will be heard.
We can represent you during the court hearing, establishing that you did not act dishonestly, and/or that you are entitled to receive the benefits in question. Our benefit fraud solicitors know how to undermine the prosecution’s case against you, and will draw upon medical and forensic evidence to secure an acquittal.
The penalties for benefit fraud can be severe. In fact, convictions can result in a prison sentence and a financial penalty. The money you received can be recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This can amount to many thousands of pounds and can lead to your assets being confiscated. Your benefits will also be reduced or stopped for up to three years.
These consequences can be devastating, both for you and your family. That is why expert legal representation is so important. Benefits fraud is a serious matter and you need a specialist to help you clear your name.
Benefit fraud solicitors London
If you have been accused of benefit fraud, please contact our benefit fraud solicitors for advice. You need to show that you are eligible to receive the benefits you are claiming, or that genuine errors have been made. We can put forward your defence or the mitigating circumstances that explain your actions.
Make an enquiry
For a free initial enquiry, call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.