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Advice needed: Benefit Fraud Allegation


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Hi all, hopefully someone can help me here.

 

I live in the Torbay Council area, and am personally full-time employed. No other income at all other than my wage and benefits - Housing Benefit top-up, and Working Tax Credits (to a measly sum of about a tenner a week which gets paid into my girlfriend's account).

 

Living arrangements: My family and I - Myself, my GF, my son of 3 and my newly born son (Born on 3rd of this month, so just over 3 weeks old) live in a 3 bedroomed house, rented from a private landlord (through a letting agency).

 

We've been living here since June, and before that we lived in a small flat above a shop, myself, my gf, and our first child, but we needed to move when we knew about our second child as the place was small, very expensive to heat, and the second bedroom was a box room, only room for one.

 

Now AS FAR AS I KNOW, everything has been done by the book. We've never claimed anything that I can even remotely suspect could be "against the rules" and to my knowledge, all the information I have provided the council with has been accurate and correct, wages, tax credits amounts etc.

 

But today I've had a letter through saying I'm under investigation for benefit fraud. I got home after a 13 hour day at work so being late night I can't call them to query it.

 

The funny thing is, the council have both mine and my gf's name down on the "claim" as it were, but this letter is addressed to me and me only.

 

I had a payrise in April of this year which I did inform tax credits and housing benefits of (a £15 a week payrise resulted in a £65 a week drop in our housing benefit top-up - most baffling) and I really cannot think of anything else that could have brought this up!

 

So my question is, can someone help me by telling me what some of the causes of these investigations are? Anything like old tenants still being labelled as being at the address (we do still get some post for a girl that lived here before, and at one time we got threatened with bailiffs because of it, but as far as I'm aware that case was resolved), can it be someone just having it "in for us" and reporting us falsely? Do they ever just get things wrong?

 

I really have tried to keep everything legal, honest, and truthful. I took extra special care to fill in everything right in all the forms, and I'm at wits end trying to figure out what it's all about. I'm in pretty bad health at the moment with a bad liver and an overactive heart, and stress levels are at an all-time high since my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and having a new baby arrive kills the well-slept nights dead, so I'd really appreciate any advice anyone can give me, the interview isn't until the 4th November so I still have over a week of nail biting and hair pulling before I know what's happening.

 

Would be very thankful for anyone that may have an idea,

 

Thank you

 

Mike

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Just forgot to add... My g/f is a full-time mother to our two children so she has no income other than child benefit payments, and the tax credits go into her account.

 

When I'm not working all I do is stay at home pretty much, I big into films and games so spend alot of my time watching movies or playing games, when not spending the time with the family. I don't drink, don't have that many friends in my area (i only moved here a few years ago and it wasn't long before the family thing happened), and neither does my gf really. The odd shopping trip is about all we do. Most of my spare money (after family spends) goes on my entertainment, which in some eyes may look like a large amount but can that go against me?

 

My job gives me £305 before tax, so I take home ball-park figure £260 a week. Our rent is £620 per month and with the added bills and stuff (electric, gas, council tax) on top our spends go over £1000 so it's not as if I'm earning a fortune, but the benefits help us to at least have a semi-luxurious lifestyle, if only mildly.

 

I'm babbling anyway, sorry. I'm grasping at straws trying to think of a cause of this.

 

Again any help is much welcome.

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Hi,

Does the letter actually use the phrase "benefit fraud"? Only ask cos I have been checked by compliance team and referred to interview in past. In my case I had just applied for ESA and we were having trouble getting any benefits. Turned out we were being underpaid benefits!

If they are querying fraud - and you know you have disclosed everything, then I would suggest you make an appt with your local CAB. Get your bank accounts / income/expenses and details of any benefits (including child ben).

If they (DWP;TCO) have provided an email address, then you could always email to ask them to explain their letter. Best not to phone - as you want a paper trail.

Top of my head, I cannot think of anything else to advise, but I'm sure someone else here will know more...

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Hi and thank you for your response. I'll word it exactly as it is in the letter for the first few lines:

 

 

======

Dear XXXX

 

We have had reason to conduct an investigation into your claim for benefit. We would now like to interview you in connection with this investigation to enable you to answer the questions that have arisen.

 

Because we have reason to believe you claim may be fraudulent, we need to interview you under caution. This means, that depending on what you tell us during the interview, we may take criminal proceedings against you. We will provide you with more information about the allegation when you attend the interview. This interview may be tape-recorded. An appointment has been made.... yadda yadda yadda

======

 

I phoned them today to see (i knew i wouldnt be able to but just wanted to try) if I could get any more information out of them but they wouldn't. I did ask for them to bring the interview forward as far as possible so the appointment is on on the 2nd november instead of the 4th. Hopefully the fact that I'm eager to get the matter resolved may work in my favour.

 

I'm none the wiser, I really don't know what the hell it could be. Other than one thing I did think about - when we moved into our new 3 bedroomed house my father provided us with the deposit and a month's rent up front to get us started. This was done with a cheque that was first paid into my bank account (£1,240) which was then taken out and given directly to our new letting agent. But, it was shortly after that when we applied for our new claim for benefit and were awarded our new amount, surely they would have picked that up when that claim was going through if it had anything to do with it?

 

Aaaarrgh I'm still no closer to a less stressful night, and I can only see it getting worse before it gets better at this rate! Any more help and advice from anyone is most welcome! :(

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Hi and thank you for your response. I'll word it exactly as it is in the letter for the first few lines:

 

 

======

Dear XXXX

 

We have had reason to conduct an investigation into your claim for benefit. We would now like to interview you in connection with this investigation to enable you to answer the questions that have arisen.

 

Because we have reason to believe you claim may be fraudulent, we need to interview you under caution. This means, that depending on what you tell us during the interview, we may take criminal proceedings against you. We will provide you with more information about the allegation when you attend the interview. This interview may be tape-recorded. An appointment has been made.... yadda yadda yadda

======

 

I phoned them today to see (i knew i wouldnt be able to but just wanted to try) if I could get any more information out of them but they wouldn't. I did ask for them to bring the interview forward as far as possible so the appointment is on on the 2nd november instead of the 4th. Hopefully the fact that I'm eager to get the matter resolved may work in my favour.

 

I'm none the wiser, I really don't know what the hell it could be. Other than one thing I did think about - when we moved into our new 3 bedroomed house my father provided us with the deposit and a month's rent up front to get us started. This was done with a cheque that was first paid into my bank account (£1,240) which was then taken out and given directly to our new letting agent. But, it was shortly after that when we applied for our new claim for benefit and were awarded our new amount, surely they would have picked that up when that claim was going through if it had anything to do with it?

 

Aaaarrgh I'm still no closer to a less stressful night, and I can only see it getting worse before it gets better at this rate! Any more help and advice from anyone is most welcome! :(

 

Go to your local legal aid they are very good and would advice you what to do and they are free they will even get in touch with the council for you that would be your best bet if you deal with this alone the council may give you further problems.

 

hope this helps

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It is possible that prior to your increase of £15 that they were overpaying you which they only realise when you updated them. This then resulted in the £65 drop. This happened to us and we "owed" them approximatley £1780, but luckily we were able to prove that they were totally at fault. After much negoiating they apologise and dropped the claim. It seems that when you try and do everything by the book they seem to mess up your benefits. No wonder people are driven to cheating the system. Update us when you know the reason for your inquisition..

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Sorry Cookie, I really dont want to worry you – but an Interview under Caution is a serious matter. Very few people (other than police) have a right to conduct taped IUC’s and it is considered to be evidence for court, if they decide to prosecute. There is a thread on these boards under the title of:

Interview under caution – some advice

This might help...

Another thread (though may not be so helpful – given some of the advice):

 

Interview under caution – incorrect allegation of benefit fraud

 

Again, I would repeat my earlier advice that you make an appt with your local CAB or Welfare Advice Centre and ask their advice – ‘though you dont have much time now.

 

They dont set these interviews up as “fishing” expeditions – they do think that they have found something. It may be something simple that you failed to disclose, or didnt know that you should have declared. The interview is to gauge your response when they reveal whatever it is that they think they have found. You should bear in mind too that they also liaise with other 'departments' to gather information (e.g. NHS,Council, HMRC, Credit Reference Agencies, etc...). Basically, anyone on benefit loses their right to privacy:!:

 

Sorry, I tried to set up a link to the above threads - but managed to lose all of my reply and had to start this again... (doh)... I haven’t qualified yet to insert links, so you will have to take the ‘long way round’. Hope I've not missed anything out!

 

 

Best Wishes,

Lena

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I'm none the wiser, I really don't know what the hell it could be. Other than one thing I did think about - when we moved into our new 3 bedroomed house

:(

 

Just had a thought...Could they have paid you benefit for both your former and new address while you were 'crossing over' so to speak? It maybe that a "jobsworth" has decided they didnt have to cover this time?

 

When we signed for our new tenancy - we applied for HB, although we had to pay rent from the date we signed, we couldnt actually move in for 3 weeks (Im disabled and some changes had to be made for me). We were given HB, but then on a "Quality Assurance" check the jobsworth decided that they were not "legally" obliged to cover the rent / CT for those weeks - so they took 'their' money back and we had to cover that period ourselves (how charming of them). Even a letter from our MP failed to change their tiny mind:mad2:

L

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Hi and thank again for your replies.

 

The oddest thing of all is that yesterday, I had a letter from them talking about our claim, saying that they think we might be entitled to more benefit than we are actually getting, saying we may be entitled to apply for council tax benefit. It looks like an automated letter, but it's confusing all the same.

 

I wish they would make up their bloody minds and make a decision about if they're giving us more or accusing me of fraud!

 

When we moved I phoned the council and even though I paid EXTRA to have rent on both properties to give us time to move, I came to an agreement with the council that the benefit would cover up to a certain day, then be transferred over. Nothing extra was paid and it was all done as properly as could be as far as I know.

 

All I guess I can do is get to the interview and see what happens.

 

Hopefully with the way I've been in touch and asked for it to be moved forward, they may see that I'm eager to get the problem resolved, whatever the problem may be.

 

Also, although I *really* can't think of anything that could cause it, could I be looking at a prison sentence do you think? That thought scares me to death, considering I have a family to look after.

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The oddest thing of all is that yesterday, I had a letter from them talking about our claim, saying that they think we might be entitled to more benefit than we are actually getting, saying we may be entitled to apply for council tax benefit. It looks like an automated letter, but it's confusing all the same...

 

Also, although I *really* can't think of anything that could cause it, could I be looking at a prison sentence do you think? That thought scares me to death, considering I have a family to look after.

 

No Cookie, I would imagine that talk of prison is for sustained / deliberate fraud? If there has been an error and if that error is down to you, then any agreement to rectify will, I'm sure, be more than enough.:-)

 

Just take in any related correspondence or details regarding the claim (that you know of).

 

Did you manage to check out the other posts I mentioned? The first one might alleviate your fears... Good Luck and please keep us posted...

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Yep, in most cases people just have to pay the money back. All the prison sentences I've heard of have been given to people who have been deliberately defrauding the benefits system usually for a long period of time and involving tens of thousands of pounds.

 

It could well be someone maliciously reporting you or who has reported you thinking you are committing benefit fraud but thinking this based on very little info and just assuming things.

 

I have read about someone being reported for working and claiming because they always left the house at a certain time Mon-Fri. The woman could prove this was because she was taking her children to school.

 

Another case someone was reported for living with a partner, the reporter even gave a description which allowed the investigators to get photos of him coming in and out of the house. When the woman was interviewed it turned out it was her son.

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Thanks again for replies.

 

Lena, I couldn't find the threads you were referring to at all. I did a forum search using a mixture of wording from what you wrote but it came up with nothing the same.

 

I have no idea what the accusations could be if it came to that, we don't really know anyone around our road yet (hell they wouldn't have any idea what we claim anyway). Workwise I work in an arcade - so I do upset alot of people but again, they don't know what I claim and where I live, hell most don't even know my full name.

 

If it's a case of overpayment, how do they go about recovering that? We get a measly £30 a week from them at the moment, would they just completely take away all that? Or would they go further and ask us to pay extra money back to them from our income? Would they send in Bailiffs to recover the costs?

 

As you can probably tell this is all completely new to me and I've never been in this situation before so I haven't got a clue what the deal is.

 

Just had a bit of a breakdown over all the confusion, this is the last thing I can deal with at the moment with everything else that's going on.

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I have receved a similar letter today and I also don't know what I've done wrong! I called them to find out and was told it wasn't something to worry about, and that they just wanted to ask me a few things to establish something- but they wouldn't tell me what it was about and I'm sleepless with worry here, feeling guilty about nothing because I can't think what I'm supposed to have done! If they just want to ask me questions, why under caution? Why not just contact me informally?

Sorry Cookie, I really dont want to worry you – but an Interview under Caution is a serious matter. Very few people (other than police) have a right to conduct taped IUC’s and it is considered to be evidence for court, if they decide to prosecute. Best Wishes,

Lena

 

Sorry to hijack this reply Lena, but you say it's a very serious matter here. I've done nothing wrong and my circumstances haven't changed. Do you know under what circumstances this might happen? I'm really confused and feel sick with worry. I can't afford legal representation and don't really understand why I should need it either, because I have no idea what I'm supposed to have done! I can't even prepare for the interview because I don't understand what it relates to.

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Oh please don't worry, WM1... If you really haven't the foggiest - then there has likely been some kind of error on either part. All I meant by the Interview under caution info - was that they will have checked out whatever they think the problem is and decided there is a discrepancy. As long as you can try to answer their questions, there shouldnt be any problem. Try check out the first thread I mentioned to Cookie. That one is someones account of what happened at their own interview - and they were fine :-)

 

They will never, ever tell anyone the reason for interview. Only because the real fraudster would then find their excuses beforehand.

 

If you are nervous, do you have a trusted friend who could go with you for moral support?

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Thanks again for replies.

 

Lena, I couldn't find the threads you were referring to at all. I did a forum search using a mixture of wording from what you wrote but it came up with nothing the same....

 

If it's a case of overpayment, how do they go about recovering that? We get a measly £30 a week from them at the moment, would they just completely take away all that? Or would they go further and ask us to pay extra money back to them from our income? Would they send in Bailiffs to recover the costs?

 

As you can probably tell this is all completely new to me and I've never been in this situation before so I haven't got a clue what the deal is.

 

Don't know your council, but if you are already receiving HB from them - they would probably just withold a few pounds each week from your benefit amount. If you owe them for anything else (and dont forget - it might turn out that you dont owe them anything), they will likely just want to agree a payment plan? Just a couple of guesses - but they can't be far wrong?

 

N.B. Yay?! Now I qualify to leave a link, so here goes...

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?235862

 

Bear in mind too, that the person concerned apparently had made a false / fraudulent claim... Fingers Crossed it works...

 

Oh - and if you just google the words "Interview under caution" you should get loads of examples show up - most from this forum:-)

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