Sharon McDougall - 9th July 2019 - 2 minutes to read
Fraudsters have pocketed tens and thousands of pounds in Universal Credit after scamming claimants, leaving them in arrears with the Department of Work & Pensions and stealing from the public pot of taxpayers’ money.
Around one-third of claims made through the online service are suspected as fake, following a loophole in the platform which enables scammers to submit fraudulent applications to request an advance loan.
The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) intends to crack down on benefit fraud after the loss of taxpayers’ money hit the £20 million mark, ‘leading to money pouring out of the public purse’.
Claimants are being targeted by scam artists in an official manner to request personal details and submit a Universal Credit loan application on their behalf, sometimes unknowingly.
If approved, DWP transfers money to the innocent individual who then pays a substantial remuneration fee to the disguised fraudster as demanded.
The funds which are on loan from the DWP are fully repayable, leaving the individual with a large debt to repay.
DWP minister, Baroness Buscombe told the BBC: "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."
DWP officials have reported fraudulent activity amounting to £100,000 at one particular branch which highlights the ongoing problem of targeted fraud.
Universal credit is a combined payment of six core financial benefits; jobseekers allowance, employment support allowance, working tax credit, child tax credit, income support and housing benefit.
Over 1.5 million people claim universal credit benefits which are paid on a monthly basis.
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