Benefit Fraud

You commit benefit fraud by claiming benefits you’re not entitled to on purpose. For example by:

  • Not reporting a change in your circumstances
  • Providing false information when making an application for benefits.

FAQ Benefit Fraud

A: Benefit fraud is a criminal offence involving failing to report change in circumstances or being dishonest in order to receive benefits. Usually this is as a result of failing to declare all information or giving false information. It must be shown your actions were deliberate in order for you to be prosecuted. In cases where you receive benefits without declaring savings the criminal offence may be failure to declare savings covered by the Social Security Administration Act 1992. If prosecuted you may have to repay any benefits overpaid. Custodial sentences are generally only targeted by the prosecution if the defrauded sum exceeds £13000. We have managed to fight cases with higher amounts than this and helped people avoid a prison sentence.
A: If you have been asked to attend an interview then the DWP will have found a discrepancy with your benefits and/or bank account.They will want to know whether you deliberately misled them and whether you did this in the knowledge that you would receive more benefits or keep existing benefits. They may have been given information suggesting you are working or that your circumstances have changed meaning you are no longer entitled to benefits. The interview should be treated in much the same way as a police interview, although it will be carried out by Fraud Investigators as opposed to the police. If you are required to attend such an interview then contact our firm without delay as we can attend this interview with you to offer you representation and advice.
A: After you have been investigated, you may be subject to prosecution, and the matter may be reported to the Procurator Fiscal. The case will be referred to the Procurator Fiscal if:
  • The overpayment is £5000 or more
  • You have previously been convicted of benefit fraud
A number of factors determine whether the Procurator Fiscal considers a prosecution. Likelihood of a successful prosecution, the amount of overpayment and the manner in which you defrauded the state, for example, forging documents would likely lead to prosecution. Your age, health and personal circumstances will also be considered.
A: Contact our fraud solicitors team immediately. Our solicitors have vast experience representing those accused of benefit fraud and have a great track record of avoiding custodial sentences. Cases of benefit fraud can be difficult to prove so pleading guilty to ‘get it out of the way’ is not always a good idea. The Procurator Fiscal often reduces the sum of the fraud significantly during negotiations. You must look at whether you would have been entitled to any benefits at all had you disclosed your full circumstances to the DWP. This amount can be offset against the figure they say you have not paid. The prosecution have to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that a person received state benefit in the knowledge they were not entitled to it. The most common defence is that the person was unaware they were receiving benefits they were not entitled to. Legal aid will ordinarily be available in benefits fraud cases. We can carry out a free case evaluation at your first appointment and complete legal aid papers with you.
A: Prison sentences are the exception not the rule, usually a financial penalty or community service is the punishment. The sentence largely depends on the total overpayment. £2500 - £5000: If the sum is closer to £2500 a non-custodial sentence or fine may be considered. £5000 - £20,000: If the sum is closer to £5000 it has been held by the court that community work is sufficient. Closer to £20,000 and a ‘significant custodial sentence’ may be imposed. Over £20,000: A custodial sentence up to 7 years could be considered. If this fraud is organised and involves multiple participants, each member could receive up to 2 years imprisonment. Please note, these are just guidelines, each case is considered on its own merits with its unique factors taken into account when sentencing. Exceptional circumstances may be considered by a judge leading to a lesser sentence.
If convicted of benefit fraud your benefits may be reduced or stopped. However, this can only affect certain benefits known as ‘sanctionable benefits’. Benefits which cannot be stopped or reduced include:
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Bereavement Payment
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Christmas Bonus
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Graduated Retirement Benefit
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Constant Attendance Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Industrial Injuries Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • State Pension
  • Social Fund Payments
  • War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance
  • War Pension Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

Benefit fraud is a serious offence with potentially life changing consequences for individuals.

Benefit fraud covers situations where someone has failed to report a change in their circumstances, for example becoming employed, or has given false information in their benefits application. This type of fraud is treated seriously by enforcement agencies – the fact that suspects face criminal sanctions is evidence of this robust approach. The other consequences of benefit fraud include an investigation into your affairs by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)’s fraud investigators, a formal caution, a fine and reduction or removal of benefits. Further, serious benefit fraud can attract media attention causing harm to a person’s reputation.

If you are suspected of benefit fraud, it is important to get advice from expert fraud defence lawyers without delay. At Keith J Tuck, we are well-versed in the prosecuting agencies’ powers and procedures in relation to fraud cases. We regularly defend clients against allegations of fraud and have earned an excellent reputation in this area. We know how stressful it is to be investigated for benefit fraud – that is why we work hard to get you the best possible outcome and minimise the impact on your life. We help clients who are under investigation for fraud with regard to any type of benefit, including:

  • Child Tax Credits.
  • Working Tax Credits.
  • Pension Credits.
  • Disability Living Allowance.
  • Child Benefit.
  • Income Support.
  • Housing Tax Benefit.

How will I know if I am under investigation?

Benefit fraud investigations are usually initiated by HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or the local council. Generally, the first time you become aware of the allegations against you is when you receive a letter from one of these bodies asking you to attend an interview. However, this will not be the first step taken by the investigation officers in your case. The authorities will already have gathered relevant information from different sources, including banks and utility providers, on your actions.

Benefit fraud interviews

You will usually be given information about the offences you will be questioned about in the letter you receive. You might be told that you will be interviewed under caution, and you should be aware that benefit fraud interviews can trigger investigations into any other benefits you claim. There is likely to be two investigating officers present and the interview may be recorded. The recorded interview may be played in court if your case proceeds to trial. Your benefits may be stopped while you are under investigation. If this is the case, you will be made aware when you are first informed about the investigation.

If you are asked to meet with investigation officers, ahead of the interview it is vital that you seek advice from benefit fraud defence solicitors. At Keith J Tuck, we give advice to clients on how best to answer interview questions, how to deal with interview questions under caution, what your legal rights are and how to ensure these are protected. You have a right to have your lawyer present at the interview. As your legal representatives, we can get full disclosure of the evidence against you, allowing us to prepare a robust defence strategy.

Defending benefit fraud

If the fraud is serious, i.e. the amount of overpaid benefit is very high or the length of the fraud is extensive, the case may be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for a decision on whether court proceedings should be taken. Our experienced and knowledgeable benefit fraud team can advise you on the best way forward and are able to present your case in a way which may persuade the agencies not to prosecute.

Sometimes, even if you decide to admit to an alleged fraud, court proceedings can still be avoided. We will advise you on how that is possible and how arrangements can be made to pay back the amount you owe. If an administrative financial penalty is imposed, we will use our expert negotiation skills to get the lowest possible fine.

Contact Our Specialist Benefit Fraud Lawyers in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Scotland

We have over 30 years of experience in criminal defence in Scotland and have particular expertise in serious fraud cases. We have an unrivalled commitment to defending individuals who face serious consequences and we have a high success rate in avoiding prosecutions and custodial sentences for our clients.

We have particular experience defending serious and complex cases, including the longest – and perhaps the most complex – indictment trial ever at Sheriff Court level related to fraud/people trafficking. Keith J Tuck successfully defended the principal accused. He also defended the principal accused in the longest trial ever in British legal history – a complex fraud case at the High Court. He has an unrivalled commitment to defending individuals who face crisis.

If you have been accused of benefit fraud, have received a letter from HMRC, the DWP or your local council about an investigation into your affairs, do not hesitate to get in touch with the benefit fraud defence team at Keith J Tuck Solicitors by calling 0141 471 9296 or via our online contact form. Please leave your details and one of our team members will contact you as soon as possible for a confidential discussion.

Benefit fraud investigation process

You’ll be contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency or your local authority if you’re suspected of fraud.

Your benefit may be stopped while you’re investigated. You’ll receive a letter telling you about this if it happens.

You may be visited by Fraud Investigation Officers or asked to attend an interview to talk about your claim – this is called a  DWP Interview under caution.

The Fraud Investigation Officers will gather facts about your case and decide whether to take further action.

If you’re asked to attend an interview

An ‘interview under caution’ is a formal interview that is often recorded. It could become part of a criminal investigation against you. It is therefore essential that you immediately obtain legal advice as soon as you have been made aware of any investigation being initiated. We have solicitors with years of experience in successfully dealing with complicated fraud charges. Our initial interview is free and you may be entitled to legal aid to defend any criminal proceedings that may follow on from the investigation.

We can be contacted on any of the telephone numbers stated on this website to arrange an initial meeting to discuss any allegations being made against you and to determine the best way to deal with your situation. You should bring along any correspondence you have received from the DWP or any other bodies looking into your benefit entitlement. There may be a reasonable explanation for certain information not being provided in relation to a benefit claim, we can negotiate with the Fraud Investigation Officers and in some cases satisfy them that no fraud took place, therefore stopping the matter from proceeding further.

What happens after a benefit fraud investigation

If after the initial investigation is you are deemed to have committed or attempted fraud benefit fraud, one or more of the following may happen:

  • You’ll be told to pay back the overpaid money
  • Your benefits may be reduced or stopped
  • You may be taken to court

Even if you have already attended a DWP Interview under caution with the Fraud Investigation Officers it will still be in your interest to seek legal advice as soon as possible thereafter. If your case has already proceeded beyond this stage and you have been contacted by the Procurator Fiscal with a legal document, called a Complaint, you should immediately contact this office if you wish us to act on your behalf and represent you at court.

Losing benefits if you’re convicted of benefit fraud

Your benefits can be reduced or stopped for up to 3 years if you’re convicted of benefit fraud. The amount of time they’re stopped for depends on how many times you’ve committed fraud.

Only certain benefits can be reduced or stopped. These are called sanctionable benefits. But if you commit fraud on a benefit that can’t be reduced or stopped, your other benefits can be reduced instead.

Criminal lawyer defence
PM, Glasgow

I can't thank this team of Glasgow solicitors enough. I was charged with benefit fraud for fiddling tax credits and was so scared I would be sent to prison. I didn't have the cash to pay back the total amount due. Nowsheen took on my case and managed to get me Legal Aid, so she could defend me in court. She took time to find out all about me and the reasons I claimed tax credits, even though my partner was living with me at that time.

In court she put my side of the story forward and showed evidence that he spent all his earnings on cocaine, leaving me short of money to pay the bills and buy food for myself and the kids. She managed to get me let off with a fine. This is far lower than the amount I actually owe in backdated benefits and I'm paying it back in small instalments. I can't believe it. I will certainly recommend Graham Walker Solicitors to all my family and friends.

PM, Glasgow
PM, Glasgow