UK Task Force Goes After Expat Benefit Cheats

UK Task Force Goes After Expat Benefit CheatsFraud investigators are hotting up their campaign against benefit cheats claiming cash from their deckchairs on the sunny beaches of Spain.

The government reckons scammers claimed around £80 million in benefits from Spain each year.

The Department for Work and Pensions, which processes and pays benefits, says more fraudulent claims come from Spain than any other country where British expats live.

Now, the DWP aims to crackdown on the fraudsters by sending a benefits team to Spain to investigate allegations about expats who are cheating the system.

Most benefit scams, says the DWP, relate to claimants who do not tell the agency they are living or travelling overseas but continue to receive payments to which they are not entitled.

Fraud targets

The investigators will track down benefit cheats from tips from provided by callers to a hotline, as well as other information from government databases.

The team also tracks suspected fraudsters with hidden cameras and cross-checks bank accounts, credit agencies and other financial information passed to HM Revenue and Customs by individuals and financial providers.

The main target areas for the task force are Alicante, the Costa del Sol and The Canary Islands.

The DWP alleges fraudsters are helped to claim hand-outs by benefits advisers who advertise in local English-language newspapers.

One newspaper, the Euro Weekly News, claims to receive so many letters alleging expats are falsely claiming benefits that they have lost count of the number.

Benefit scams

The taskforce was launched by Minister for Welfare Reform David Freud.

“Public money should go to those who need it and not criminals,” he said. “Most British expats obey the law and do not claim benefits they should not have.

“Some expect the rest of us to finance their lifestyle choice by fraudulently claiming benefits while abroad. We will not tolerate this and will stop them.”

The main benefit frauds in Spain involve:

  • Claimants with means-tested benefits who move overseas without telling the DWP
  • Property owners with undeclared homes in Spain
  • People working in Spain while claiming unemployment benefit in the UK

Other popular scams include claiming income support or pension credits while living in Spain, said the DWP.

The DWP has set up a fraud hotline on 900 554 440 for anyone who wants to give information about a benefit cheat. The DWP website also has an online form for sending information to the task force.

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