FRAUDSTERS making bogus Universal Credit claims have stolen millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
Scores of fake applications included one saying Harry Kane was the claimant’s landlord and another from a 19-year-old mum said to have “six blind children”.
2 The online Universal Credit system makes it easy for scammers to con the system and steal millions of pounds from taxpayersCredit: Alamy
Scammers exploited a loophole online to apply for Universal Credit and claim advance loans on behalf of others who have no idea they are being signed up.
Often the victim only found out about the fraud when they received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions to say they were enrolled on Universal Credit and that their other benefits would be stopped.
It led to “money pouring out of the public purse” at the Department of Work and Pensions, according to a BBC investigation.
The fraud was revealed on an internal Department of Work and Pensions forum on which users said the scam was rife in the north of England.
‘CHILDREN NAMED HA, HA AND HA’
One user said: “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?”
Another official added: “Around 200-300 new referrals every day” in the region are fictitious.
“At between £1,200 and £1,500 for each advance, the numbers are staggering”.
One of the original goals of Universal Credit was to save about a billion pounds in fraud and error.
2 Scores of fake applications included one saying Harry Kane was the claimant’s landlordCredit: PA:Press Association
At one Job Centre more than a third of claims were suspected of being fake and £100,000 of fraudulent activity each month was recorded at another branch.
The Department of Work and Pensions estimates 10 per cent of the 100,000 or more advances paid monthly are potentially fake, the BBC reported.
Jade Thomas, 31, from Manchester, now owes more than £1,500 of a loan arranged for her by a fraudster, but she had to pay him £1,000 for setting it up – so received only £525 of it.
Jade told the BBC: “All he needed was my provisional licence and my bank card and a photo which he had to take there and then. He had a badge from the Job Centre Plus… he was dressed smartly.”
Money, which she thought was a type of grant, landed in her account but she later realised it was fraud when her tax credits stopped and officials explained she had been put on universal credit. The unexpected debt has pushed her into arrears with both her rent and council tax.
The DWP said it was aware of the issue and had a team of staff working to identify cases of fraud, with one conviction already secured.
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Work and Pensions minister Baroness Buscombe said: “Fraud and error in the benefit system remains low, and we continue to work hard to identify and tackle any instances that occur.
“Those involved in the despicable practice of preying on vulnerable people to steal their benefits are parasites, and we are determined to bring them to justice.
“We’re encouraging people to listen to their instincts. If someone offers you a low-cost loan from the Government they may be trying to steal your identity.
“Treat your personal information for benefits in the same way you would for your bank. And if you think you’ve been targeted, we urge you to report it urgently.”
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