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Benefits - fraud investigation

Fraud Prevention

Benefit fraud is often thought of as a “victimless crime”, but this is not true.  It costs the taxpayer millions of £’s each year.  This is money that could be spent on improving services for people in real need. 

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As a Council we are determined to deter fraud and have a benefit fraud team dedicated to investigating housing benefit and council tax support fraud. 

All investigations are carried out with integrity and in a professional manner by trained and qualified staff.

Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and, if we think someone is fraudulently claiming benefit, we will investigate that person’s circumstances.  In certain situations, for example where we suspect third party collusion, we may also investigate the landlord and/or employers.

If we have evidence that someone is committing benefit fraud we may prosecute the offender or, as an alternative to prosecution, apply a formal caution or a financial penalty.

The types of benefit fraud we come across are:

Working and claiming – this, for example, involves claimants who are receiving housing benefit and/or council tax support on the basis that they are entitled to job seekers allowance/income support but are in fact working.

Non-disclosure of property, capital or income – this is where the claimant does not tell us about all their income, savings, capital or property so that the amount of benefit they get is higher than it should be.

Non-disclosure of partner (living together as man and wife, as civil partners and as same sex couples) – this involves a claimant receiving housing and council tax support and not telling us they have a partner, knowing that if they did they would not be entitled to benefit.

Non-disclosure of non-dependants or sub-tenants – this is where a claimant does not tell us about other adults living in the property so that they keep, or increase their entitlement to benefit.

False claims by homeowners – this is where the owner of a property falsely claims housing benefit, stating they are paying rent for the property, inventing a fictitious landlord and using false rent books and tenancy agreements.

False address or failing to declare a change of address - this is where the claimant is claiming benefit for an address where they do not live.  These types of offences can involve the landlord or other tenants, or occur when the claimant doesn’t tell us that they have moved out of a property.

Landlord fraud – this is where a landlord continues to receive benefit paid direct to them when they know the claimant has left the premises.

Fictitious tenancies – this is where a tenancy is created between friends of family where the property would not normally be rented in order to obtain benefit to which they are not entitled.

If you suspect someone is claiming benefits to which they may not be entitled, please tell us about it.  There are several ways you can tell us about suspected fraud.  You can do this anonymously or, if you give us your name we will keep this confidential.  We have trained and experienced staff who can provide you with advice if you are unsure about whether to report a suspected case of fraud.

Ring our fraud hotline on: 0800 7316125

Send an e-mail to: benefitfraud@cornwall.gov.uk

Guidance for making a referral: 

We have listed below some of the things you should consider when contacting us to report a suspected fraud.  These are designed to enable you to give us as much information as possible to get a positive end result.

We will look at every report we get.  First of all we decide if there is enough information to start an investigation.  We gather additional information about the suspect from a wide range of courses, such as utility companies, banks and building societies.

The Fraud Investigation Team then investigates and establishes the facts.  Where appropriate they take action – including the withdrawal of benefits or starting a criminal prosecution.

All this can take time.  Unfortunately we cannot comment on cases under investigation.  So if you report someone we will not be able to update you on how the investigation is proceeding.

The type of information we need about the person claiming includes things such as:

  • A description of the person you are reporting – height, build, hair colour/style and any distinguishing features
  • Do they own a vehicle?
  • If they do, what is the make colour and registration of the vehicle?
  • Where is the vehicle parked (this information helps if we have to carry out any surveillance)?
  • If they are working, do you know where they work?
  • If you don’t know who they work for, do you know what time the person leaves home for work?
  • How to they get to work?  Do they own a vehicle, are they collected, do they walk; catch the bus, cycle etc?
  • If they are collected, who picks them up and in what kind of vehicle?
  • What time do they leave for work and return home?
  • What days do they work?
  • Do they wear a uniform to work?
  • How long have they been working?
  • Do they have undeclared savings?
  • How much do they have?
  • Do you know where their savings are held eg bank, building society etc?
  • How do you know?

If you suspect someone is living with the claimant and they haven’t told us, we need to know things like:

  • The name of the person living with the claimant
  • What is their relationship to the claimant, eg living together, lodger etc
  • Does this person work and, if so, where?
  • If you don’t know who they work for, do you know what time the person leaves home for work?
  • How to they get to work?  Do they own a vehicle, are they collected, do they walk; catch the bus, cycle etc?
  • If they are collected, who picks them up and in what kind of vehicle? What time do they leave for work and return home?
  • What days do they work?
  • Do they wear a uniform to work?
  • How long have they been working?
  • Do they own a vehicle?
  • If they do what is the make colour and registration of the vehicle?
  • Where is the vehicle parked (this information helps if we have to carry out any surveillance).

This information is also available in our guide to fraud and how we can prevent it leaflet.

Benefits

0300 1234 121