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Pension Credit - Notified of Customer Compliance Officer visit next week, quite anxious.


Hannay100
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My wife and I are approaching 70 and receive Pension Credit.

 

A few years ago we had a terrible experience when I was summoned to an Interview Under Caution. We couldn't imagine what lay behind the allegation of fraud that was mentioned, but nevertheless I was rather fearful of a formal recorded interview and all that this implied.

 

My wife however, who was not a strong woman, was very badly affected by stress and significant anxiety. This began when they would not pre-advise their concerns so that I could assemble whatever supportive material would be appropriate to have with me, and then grew much worse over almost ten further weeks of furnishing information followed by long silences before ultimately stating in a brief phone call and in a very offhand manner that they had actually dropped the matter a week or so earlier and would be writing to confirm.

 

I understand entirely the need for due-process, and certainly for not giving deliberate fraudsters any wiggle room in advance of looking them in the eye. I could however have provided at the interview all of the particulars supplied in response to drip-feed requests across the subsequent many weeks, eliminating the anxiety-escalating long silences and saving everyone's time and my wife's perpetual distress and more.

 

"Due-process" is not simply a step-plan to be followed for DWP's information-gathering needs, it also dismissively corrodes undeserving people's lives when followed with no discrimination. My wife was not the same woman after that experience nor has been since, despite there actually being nothing to answer and the matter dropped. A glib dismissal certainly did not reset the clock. I am not able to forgive. I tried, I really did.

 

In view of this I hope someone can help me now with some information or guidelines on a new matter ...

 

This morning I received a DWP letter notifying me that a Customer Compliance Officer will visit us at home next week. No particular purpose given just general phrases about possible changes of circumstance and ensuring correct entitlement, and about having bank documents etc available.

 

I told my wife who now has a genuine dread of every brown envelope arriving, and she went ashen, sat down with her face in her hands and started sobbing, all those insecurities and fears instantly on the surface again. If anyone from any of these Departments is actually reading this and didn't understand what I was saying a few lines above, think what that past effect must have been to cause this so readily some years later. And you should be bothered by it.

 

I have told my wife that it is just a box-ticking visit to make sure we aren't missing out, that it isn't an IUC, that there is no accusation/suspicion involved, however she simply sees that "IT" is about to happen all again beginning next week.

 

What I would like help with now please is some real-world understanding solely for myself ...

 

I have a hard time thinking that this is just a friendly benevolent chit-chat. I suspect there has to be some underlying purpose, some information-gathering for whatever reason and prompted by some itch they now need to be seen to scratch. I've absolutely no problem providing information, but it would be nice not to be deceived in the process.

 

Clearly DWP does nothing for other than a self-serving purpose. Can anyone comment from experience about a Customer Compliance Officer's visit that they were subjected to? Benign? Or were you hit with an IUC letter shortly afterward whether justified or not?

 

That won't help me to know the topic, and no doubt if they are quietly gathering information to possibly support some suspicion then I won't find any clues next week either, however just being aware of a different motive will help my focus on the day.

 

I think you could say we are a pretty nice senior couple, have daily habits for walks and visits and shopping, we have nice neighbours, are clearly retired not career benefit-fraudsters and as far as I know nobody living near knows our affairs and that we receive benefits anyway.

 

But I am sorry, DWP is NOT just coming for a cup of tea and checking we aren't missing some entitlement.

 

I would like to be aware if it is known that these visits are an initial ploy, can you advise me at all so I can focus suitably when they visit?

 

With thanks.

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Compliance visits are routine and nothing to worry about. The team that conducts these interviews are not fraud investigators, the interview will not be conducted under caution, and the fact that they're interviewing you does not mean that they suspect you of any wrongdoing.

 

Some Compliance interviews are conducted at random, and in other cases they do them because they have received some fraud allegation that they are not taking seriously but have to go through the motions of checking out regardless. If they really suspected you of fraud, it would not be the Compliance officers that would be talking to you.

 

There are many other posters here who have direct experience of these interviews and who can tell you more, but rest assured that it is not an "initial ploy" and it's vanishingly unlikely that it will lead to any fraud action.

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I can tell you now after being a victim of this nightmare, and i will say victim

 

It is about time the DWP reword these leters as they are deliberatly forumlated to cause alarm and distress by design

 

As stated it will be either a routine quality of service check to see if you re on the correct benefit entitlement and not being underpaid or::

 

Some **** bag has made an Anonymous report about you to the DWP.

 

The DWP treat such Anonymous reports with the contempt they deserve.

 

If they really thought you were up to no good they would call you in and interview under caution. That is exactly what the adviser told me. It is just a low level follow up so the can close the allegation down.

 

And yes i did have someone say i was working and claiming benefit. It cost me a weeks sleep worrying about it

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Thank you Antone and Obiter Dictum for those reassurances. I appreciate now having a pointer to focus my own thoughts for the visit next week.

 

I am not sure that my wife is presently able to feel that much at ease however, and this evening has been very stressful for her because of what she went through previously. I hope that the visit is indeed routine and not the first step in an uncertain series.

 

Hopefully she might be more receptive to that possibility with a new day tomorrow, though I really do hope that the visit was not actually prompted by something malicious as it then could be differently distressing for her afterward wondering who it was, and why.

 

Again many thanks, though the experiences of others would still be welcome for me to make reference to in support.

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Here are some previous threads on the topic:

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?450514-JSA-Compliance-Visit-NFA

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?451824-another-compliance-officer-visit-**-RESOLVED-**

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?449586-Compliance-interview

 

There are many more - it's a fairly common topic on this forum. While I do understand that it is stressful and distressing, I can't emphasise enough that it is not the Compliance team who deal with suspected fraud. Either your claim has been picked at random for a review, which does happen, or, as Obiter Dictum says, someone has made an anonymous fraud allegation against you which the DWP is not taking seriously. They know as well as anyone else that accusations of benefit fraud have become a new way to harass your neighbours.

 

It's likely, in fact, that the Compliance officer who conducts this interview will know little or nothing about your previous IUC. Notes and information about such interviews are not available to most DWP staff for security reasons.

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If you need any more reassurance, I was once the victim of a malicious allegation with the consequent investigation, IUC etc. When that same person made further allegations, I received visits from the complaince team instead. If you look at it from their point of view, if there is any chance of an allegation being true then we should hope that they do follow it up, but in as low key a manner as possible. And they do do visits for many other reasons - my parents had one when they moved, for example - as well as entirely random 'name out of a hat' visits.

 

Totally agree with obiter that the wording of their letters could make it clear why they are visiting - the first one I got from the compliance team had a similar effect on me to your wife's reaction, i.e. it frightened me to death.

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RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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I had one of these several years ago, there was no letter first just an unexpected knock on my door one morning at 9.00 am. The woman said she was here to discuss my housing benefit claiim and asked to come in. Being totally innocent and also taken by surprise I just let her in and didnt even check her ID until she was sat in the living room. She went through all the details of who lived with me etc and the financial situation. On that occasion it was due to a report somebody had made which thankfully quickly became clear was untrue. She left and we heard no more. A week or so later i recall a letter outlining my entitlements which remained the same and thankfully nothing like this has happened again.

 

Its got to be so unsettling to say the least getting one of these letters. They definately need to look at the wording they use. For anyone who suffers with mental health issues such as me, a letter like this would send me into orbit with anxiety.

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Compliance visits are routine and nothing to worry about. The team that conducts these interviews are not fraud investigators, the interview will not be conducted under caution, and the fact that they're interviewing you does not mean that they suspect you of any wrongdoing.

 

Some Compliance interviews are conducted at random, and in other cases they do them because they have received some fraud allegation that they are not taking seriously but have to go through the motions of checking out regardless. If they really suspected you of fraud, it would not be the Compliance officers that would be talking to you.

 

There are many other posters here who have direct experience of these interviews and who can tell you more, but rest assured that it is not an "initial ploy" and it's vanishingly unlikely that it will lead to any fraud action.

 

I agree with the above as we had one around earlier this year and as a result we are now better off by about £90 a week!

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I have only just been able to look back .. a very full Sunday, though also a distraction from these things for my Wife. And thank you all for helping me with that, it is much appreciated.

 

antone - I will read those further threads when more settled this evening. I am sure they will add reinforcement, thank you.

 

reallymadwoman - thank you, and what a runaround for you though I am pleased that the reality was quickly obvious. Yes certainly they should be vigilant as you say, what troubles me however is that they have so often been vigilantes instead riding in with pistols blazing and causing genuine harm to innocent bystanders as if collateral damage was expected and shrugged-off.

 

Ruby_Tuesday - I am pleased the spiteful false accusation against you was dismissed with no effect ... other than your surprise at being visited and challenged out of the blue right after breakfast! I am sure that the distress that such badly-worded letters as this one bring is felt equally by all when received. It is simply not reasonable to think that this was not designed-in. The verbiage used in such communications is not just dashed off in a few moments, but is given serious consideration as to purpose and the desired effect as much as to the actual words used to express the content, and is then worked-up to achieve that aim. Yes, it is planned, formulated, worked and reworked, and approved as fit-for-purpose. Someone actually has to say "yep, approved!". Accidental? No.

 

Surfer01 - thanks, and that would be a most pleasant surprise indeed though Pension Credit is more of an umbrella benefit with inbuilt offsets in the event of changes in other benefits ... but nevertheless I'll send our visitor round to see you and fix up the same result if that's okay with you? :)

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antone - could I ask a supplementary question please, that has come in to my mind in the wee-hours.

 

I have found much reassurance in your words, from which I understand that generally the reason for such a visit is either a random check or a malicious-or-otherwise report that has to be checked-out.

 

My question is, can a Compliance visit be triggered by concerns generated within that Department's own administrative processes? By this I think I mean such things as having potential anomalies arise when one system has information seeming to conflict with another's.

 

I know that this does occur, as it is precisely what led to my IUC some years ago when there was a misinterpretation of some difference between HMRC-based financial info and some other Government/national/local record on me - I really didn't properly understand it all to be honest, and at the time was just then taken-up with wanting it sorted anyway not necessarily knowing the nuts and bolts. At my IUC they had obtained my bank account info, history and more without my knowledge, and it was clear where the misinterpretations had occurred but pointing out their error and then validating the actual circumstance was far less easy because of their challenging attitudes at that particular grade of interview, and subsequently.

 

So then ...

 

If it is possible that something lesser-though-similar might have triggered this visit I would want to go back suitably further with bank accounts and suchlike than just the recent few months that I think should otherwise be adequate to have with me this time, and be able to comfortably come up with immediate facts in response to any "we have noticed that ...." line of enquiry.

 

Just to be clear, I am not referring to the self-same issues that led to that past IUC which I assume is now history, just to any possibility that some internal cross-reference potential might have come up afresh with something of its own? Is this routinely possible for this Department, does it have that kind of data sources or input? If so I just would want to be prepared and able to give an easy snap-back response with validation whilst sitting on my own sofa, not end up going back and forward afterward by post/whatever with proofs etc. when it could be avoided given the more-moderate nature of a Compliance visit as you have advised.

 

It would only be a matter of going back further, printing-off another year or so's statements say, and it would be silly not to take that precaution and be able to divert any misassumption if there is in fact potential for a specific issue to have been flagged low-level. Not worrying, just concerned and being cautious about not missing any potentially useful preparation with the visit near.

 

So if you are able to advise whether that Department actually has such inputs itself in the first place and a brief to act on them, I would welcome knowing that I should have the comfort of additional reference papers up my sleeve in case it would be useful to check/answer a related question on the spot.

 

Sorry to stretch this a little further, however it is because I am feeling somewhat stretched right now myself.

 

With thanks.

 

(PS, I always smile at "Antone" ... beauty is in the "i" of the beholder... or, more appropriately, in the lack of it :) )

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Heh, yeah, the name "Antone" is just one of my quirks - it's not my real name, nor even close, but it amuses me. "Antoine" would sound too...French :)

 

Anyway, the basic answer to your question is "yes", it is possible that some internal process has triggered the interview: I'm fairly sure that data from HMRC's tax records can be cross-checked with benefit claim information, for example. I believe this is known as "data matching", and although I used to work for the DWP I was never involved with that sort of thing, being a mere benefit processor, so I can't shed too much light on how it works. Nor can I really say whether it's likely that this is what has happened in your case.

 

However, the same basic point applies: cases where the DWP seriously suspects wrongdoing on the part of a claimant are not handled by the Compliance team. There is a separate team of fraud investigators who have the training and processes that would be needed to gather the type and quality of evidence that would be required if action such as prosecution were even a possibility. It's hard to advise on the specifics of how to proceed since we (and you) don't really know what has triggered this meeting. But certainly, if you want to be extra-prepared and have more extensive documentation to hand, there would be no harm in that. Better to have it and not need it etc...

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Bien sur, trop francaise! Plus a single solo ant breaking away from the colony is to be much admired anyway, an independ-ant doing his own thing :)

 

Thank you for these further comments.

 

I am inclined to be cautious and have more to hand than requested/suggested, though the automatic need even to think in terms of self-defence bothers me greatly but that is the way the world is turning I guess. My lovely old Dad, a Gentleman of the first order, would be disgusted were he still with us. I have inherited his ways and opinions :)

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For anyone coming to this later who might find it useful/supportive.

 

Also with thanks to Antone - who was entirely correct - and to all others above adding their guidance and support ... sometimes just a friendly hand on your shoulder does a very great deal.

 

The Compliance visit took place this morning, and though it was actually completely unnecessary it was conducted in a very pleasant and light fashion with no leaning toward confrontation at all.

 

There were two visitors, one of whom was I suspect supervising the other ... just my judgement from general conduct.

 

They announced the reason for the visit right away, it was very routine, was immediately settled, I provided confirmations/proofs in the form of correspondence and bank statements, they took a statement to add to the proofs, and that part was over.

 

We then looked for a while at our benefits package and explored whether there might be any further options available, which there didn't appear to be because I had hopefully been diligent covering that ground in the first place, and then they left.

 

30 minutes max altogether.

 

A good outcome? In that moment yes most certainly.

 

BUT

 

The visit was prompted by what you, Antone, referred to as "data matching", and was actually totally unnecessary - as was all the stress it generated in advance - and was a waste of everybody's time.

 

In this instance one system showed a smallish cash-sum receipt a few years ago that was not shown on DWP/Pension Credit records or my statements then or since, which perfectly understandably needed either clarifying or shown to be an error if so.

 

In fact it was a balancing repayment of income tax some years after my business collapse once all of the wheels had finished turning at HMRC's snail's pace.

 

But more importantly it was immediately reported to DWP/PensCred at the time it occurred as required under the terms of claim, which requires notification of all changes in circumstances/finances.

 

As much as I wanted to show strong annoyance I just let them know with clear surprise that I had formally notified them at the time as required, and provided a copy of the particular letter among the many, suggesting with a little obvious irritation that it should therefore have been on their records ever since and entirely avoided what had brought them to see me. Clearly however nobody had bothered to deal with it properly when they should have - no doubt not the first time that has happened - hence the query now.

 

I was advised that they were not the decision-maker but most likely that would be the end of it. I asked if I would be notified and they said that letters aren't usually sent out confirming closure, though agreed that perhaps they should be.

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That's great news. I thought this was how it would turn out, but I'm really pleased for you and it must be hard to believe people saying that the visit isn't likely to be a problem.

 

Thank you for the update, which will help to reassure caggers in the future.

 

Please let us know when you have written confirmation and we'll alter your thread title to reflect the outcome.

 

HB

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Hannay, I am so pleased to hear that the visit was pretty much a box ticking exercise. But how unnecessary to cause your wife all that stress - when perhaps they could have been clearer in their communication of the visit !

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