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Bournemouth Borough Council has duty under law to administer a benefits service to those who qualify within its borough. At the same time there is a responsibility to ensure that payments are only made to those who are actually entitled to them. Unfortunately, it is a fact that a minority of people fraudulently attempt to claim benefits, to which they are not entitled.
What is benefit fraud?|
What happens when an allegation of fraud is received by Bournemouth Borough Council?|
What happens after the interview if you think I’m guilty?|
What is Bournemouth Borough Council doing to combat fraud?|
How are you told about fraud/how can I tell you about fraud?|
Why do you sometimes not prosecute?|
If you can’t always prosecute, why should I tell you?|
Benefit fraud is falsely claiming money from the Government. It is an intentional deception which takes money away from those that need it most. Some examples of fraud are:
This can either be not telling us about a partner when they first make a claim, or not letting us know when a partner moves in during the claim.
Not telling us about money they have coming into the household, whether at the start of the claim or during the claim. This could be from tax credits, other benefits or rent from a lodger. These are only examples and this is not a complete list.
Not telling us about any employment, or a partner’s employment at the start or during a claim. This could also included failing to tell us about an increase in earnings or a second job
Capital is money in accounts, savings, property or investments held by you or a partner. Again, these are only examples and this is not a complete list.
Other types of benefit fraud include claiming at an address you do not live in, not declaring another occupant who is not your partner or falsifying rent documents.
Bournemouth Borough Council has its own Fraud Team who investigate fraudulent claims and take appropriate action against those who commit fraud. The team works closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, to ensure information is shared.
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Once an allegation of fraud has been received by the Fraud Team, the investigator will look at the allegation, make initial enquiries and decide on a course of action. This could be visiting the claimant at home or inviting them to attend an interview under caution at the Council Offices.
What happens if you want to speak to me about my claim?
It does not mean that we believe you are guilty of an offence and will be prosecuted. It means that the evidence gathered so far has indicated that you may have committed an offence.
If you are asked to attend an interview under caution, you can bring a friend, relative, solicitor or legal advisor with you, so long as they are not connected to our investigation. You don’t have to attend an interview, as they are voluntary. However, if you do not attend, it will not prevent us from taking further action against you.
There are several courses of action we can take:-
We have a number of anti-fraud policies, a programme of fraud awareness training and publicity to help promote the anti-fraud message within the Council. We also advertise prosecutions to act as a deterrent.
They’re received in many different formats and from varied sources. Some are received from other teams within the Council, other Local Authorities or from the Police and Department for Work and Pensions. We also match our information against that held by other Government Departments, such as HMRC. We still need your help in tackling fraud though, we can’t do it alone. Many are received from members of the public via the Fraud Hotline| or on line referral.
If you want to report a suspected fraud and remain anonymous, you can complete the online referral form on the Department for Work & Pensions website|, which has guidance and the sort of information we would need. Basically the more information we have, the greater the chance of it being investigated. Or alternatively, you can telephone the Fraud Hotline on 01202 451536 and leave a message on our 24hr answer phone.
You can also email the Fraud Team direct on firstname.lastname@example.org|, but with this method is not entirely anonymous.
When we investigate a fraud there are a number of factors that come into consideration. The size of the overpayment is one factor, but the biggest contributing factor is whether or not a criminal offence was committed. In many cases whilst the overpayment was a large amount, the standard of evidence isn’t enough to prove a criminal offence. Unfortunately there is little we can do until further evidence is obtained.
Whilst some investigations will not fit the criteria for prosecution, many investigations will lead to the recovery of overpaid benefit, which total many thousand of pounds each year. We have other penalties as alternatives to prosecution such as Cautions or Administrative Penalties (monetary fine). Ultimately the reduction in fraud allows taxpayers money to be used where it is most needed.
Fraud hotline: 01202 451536
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