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Advance payment fraud: client as victim

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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Andrew Dutton - 13 May 2019 03:30 PM

This case has just been raised in Work & Pensions questions in Parliament.

Justin Tomlinson has offered to look in to it as a matter of urgency.


Watch this space?

Wouldn’t hold your breath Andrew…

ClairemHodgson
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Andrew Dutton
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Lucky I didn’t hold my breath - still nothing from DWP.

Where’s me dictionary [flips pages]...‘urgent’....‘urgent’..........hmmmmm…...

Andrew Dutton
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Andrew Dutton
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Still nothing from DWP - they are apparently still investigating.

Claimant due to start UC with massive deductions taken from the payment for advance and other debts.

Meanwhile, at the Financial Times:

https://www.ft.com/content/6e8fbcca-7f9c-11e9-b592-5fe435b57a3b

Why is this not a major scandal?

shawn mach
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More reporting on this:

Fraudsters are exploiting the universal credit benefits system, leaving vulnerable families penniless, police and local councils have warned.

Criminals posing as Jobcentre workers or helpful advisers are targeting people on low incomes and getting them to hand over their personal details by promising to help them apply for the interest-free loans offered by the government to cover the waiting period until their first UC payment comes through. The fraudsters then apply online for the benefit, take most or all of the loan and then disappear

https://www.ft.com/content/6e8fbcca-7f9c-11e9-b592-5fe435b57a3b
https://www.pymnts.com/news/security-and-risk/2019/universal-credit-system-fraud

 

 

Andrew Dutton
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The Sun too:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/9162766/struggling-families-warned-beware-new-universal-credit-scam-stops-benefits/

The government’s complacency in assuming that everyone and anyone can operate an online account is going to fuel this phenomenon.

Fairly soon, Jack Lolly, who lends out money from the back room of the pub, is going to have a thriving new cottage industry, ‘helping’ people to claim UC and ‘managing’ their claims, because there is no other help available or people have to wait too long to get other help. Plus legit advisers are often blocked from helping them owing to problems with explicit consent.

Jack will hold the claimants’ login details and they will come to ask him what to do. They will be glad of his help, and his fees will be as modest as are the APRs on his loans. Only a few people will get hurt, pour encourager les autres.

Andrew Dutton
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Still no response from DWP.

We have been made aware of three more cases in the last week.

JoW
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We are coming across these regularly. We have one who was getting SDP so we are hoping she will be able to reclaim legacy benefits as UC claim should fail?

Andrew Dutton
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JoW - 10 June 2019 12:20 PM

We are coming across these regularly. We have one who was getting SDP so we are hoping she will be able to reclaim legacy benefits as UC claim should fail?

I think that should be the case. A little challenge for UC’s specialist team.

With others who don’t have that protection, I would be grateful for people’s views on the possibility of arguing that the UC claim is invalid from first principles. 

I like the argument suggested in a posting above, that S1 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 is not satisfied, because there has to be a claim,  and that a UC claim made without the knowledge or authority of the claimant cannot be a valid claim, legacy benefits are therefore not stopped, and the claimant should be restored to where they were. I can’t see how the claimant can be held liable to repay any advance payment either.

Also - I think people’s MPs should be made aware of each of these scams. What is DWP proposing to do to stop this phenomenon???

Daphne
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I have today emailed JP Marks about it - will update if I get a reply…

Ruth Knox
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We are getting this in Liverpool now - and Facebook is being used as a way of contacting potential victims.  Here;s the experience of one of my colleagues:

“I have just seen a client who was scammed into claiming UC on FB!  She was told she could get a £1,200 loan and it would not affect her benefits. They took all her details and without her knowledge lodged a UC claim and generated a full month payment in advance. The money went into her bank account but she was told they needed access to her bank details and she gave them the log on details. The £1,200 was then removed from her account. She contacted the Police and her bank. The bank refunded £600 but said she willingly took part in the scam so couldn’t have the full amount refunded.

By whoever the fraudster was who lodged the UC claim this led to CTC, HB, ESA claims being closed down. She said DWP admit it must have been somebody within the UC call centre system and agreed it was a scam but they wouldn’t put her back on legacy benefits and are making her repay the £1,200 advance at £100 per month! I told her we will try to help her with this but she said Police in Liverpool said they have seen this a few times. “

The interesting thing is that the police said they have now seen it a few times!

Andrew Dutton
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We’ve had a case in which an acquaintance of the vulnerable claimant (who has an appointee) turned up at her home when she was alone, plied her with drink and made the online UC claim. Claimant has MH problems, the drink interfered with her meds and she can’t remember much.

They drove her to her bank to withdraw cash once the advance came through, then drove off and left her with £25 in her pocket. Nice of them to leave her the taxi fare to get home.

Lowest of the low - but they will be outdone by DWP if it washes its hands of this business.

JoW
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The NAWRA letter is great but do people think it actually is a loan company that is contacting people? I have assumed that it is lots of individuals, masquerading as reps from a loan company, and doing this as a scam rather than it being a genuine loan company?

Also I am assuming people have to go in to the bank to withdraw the cash as most ATMs have a limit on what can be withdrawn in one go. Do the banks have a role/responsibility to query vulnerable people withdrawing large amounts of cash?

[ Edited: 13 Jun 2019 at 04:34 pm by JoW ]
Helen Rogers
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I think we should be pushing for the UC claim to be cancelled in these situations and legacy benefits restored as a valid UC claim has not been made.

Paul007
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My understanding is once you have a crime ref number the UC fraud team will investigate.  If they find a fraudulent claim has been made they can return to legacy (providing in the meantime a new UC claim has not be made whilst they await the decision - I have had this happen).

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Paul007 - 14 June 2019 10:49 AM

My understanding is once you have a crime ref number the UC fraud team will investigate.  If they find a fraudulent claim has been made they can return to legacy (providing in the meantime a new UC claim has not be made whilst they await the decision - I have had this happen).

Interesting. DWP have not said this to me - in one case, they appear to have ‘cancelled’ this fraudulent UC claim - then pushed the claimant in to making a new one! Claimant is unable to manage IT.

And as for the ‘urgent’ action on the case from last month? Nothing. Nada. Nix.

 

Andrew Dutton
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Helen Rogers - 14 June 2019 09:15 AM

I think we should be pushing for the UC claim to be cancelled in these situations and legacy benefits restored as a valid UC claim has not been made.

I agree with this. How is it possible that a claim made without the claimant’s knowledge can be valid? What else becomes possible if this is nodded at?

 

Andrew Dutton
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I’m not a Reddit user, but these messages came up when I did a search for any other mentions of UC scamming.

Word is getting around, and DWP is apparently doing nothing - ?

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Andrew Dutton
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Still nothing from DWP minister.

On the other case that I mentioned (an acquaintance plies vulnerable claimant with drink, tells her he is helping apply for a loan, claims UC, claims advance, takes all but £25 of this from her)  some interesting developments:

DWP have got the claimant’s appointee to close the fradulent claim and, two weeks after that claim, open a new one.

They refuse to go back to legacy benefits -

‘We have carefully considered the circumstances. However, we cannot reinstate [the] former ESA legacy benefit as [claimant] has received an advanced payment of UC into her own nominated bank account. [Claimant] has therefore, benefited from the advance payment and has engaged with UC as a result. ‘

I’ve asked for the legal reasoning for this statement. in practical terms it is of course whimwham as the client was robbed , benefited from nowt, and didn’t engage with UC at all.

Will they backdate the ‘new’ claim to cover the missing two weeks, I wonder?

A new UC claim may make some sense as it creates a new UC account to which the fraudsters don’t have the login and will get the claimant some money, but it spikes the argument about going back to legacy benefits.

DWP also advise their fraud team is looking at the case, but it’s plain we will earn nothing about it -

[W]e are unable to comment on any fraud investigation or enquiries that may be being made by our investigators. Unauthorised disclosure would contravene the data protection principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. This also means that we cannot provide progress updates relating to any information provided regarding potential benefit fraud. In applying this exemption, DWP is not confirming whether the information requested does, or does not, exist”.

 

 

 

Vonny
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Could this be a case for JR?
Would a pre-action letter make them see sense?

Andrew Dutton
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Barring DWP suspecting that the claimant has colluded in a fraud, can anyone think of a reason why a UC 3rd-party fraud victim should be asked to attend an Interview Under Caution?

Mike Hughes
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If there were a criminal investigation into the perpetrator of the original fraud then it would hardly arguably not be unreasonable that anyone with evidence on the point would have to be IUCd. The fact that they’re not the alleged fraudster is surely nothing to the point?

Andrew Dutton
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Depends on the purpose of IUC - something I’m not clear about, hence the question.

Does a witness face IUC?Is a witness told that they are being interviewed as a witness rather than as a suspect?

The particular claimant perceives it as victim-blaming.

HB Anorak
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Apparently quite normal to caution people who are not currently suspects and are being interviewed as a witness where police anticipate that the suspect will attempt to incriminate the witness. Particularly common after an RTA I believe.

Andrew Dutton
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Seems to me that the claimant should not consent to any such interview without legal advice and a legal presence at any interview. It has all the hallmarks of a fishing-trip.

In what way will fraud victims be encouraged to come forward if they know they will face IUC and will be made to feel like criminals?

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Andrew Dutton - 01 July 2019 01:16 PM

Seems to me that the claimant should not consent to any such interview without legal advice and a legal presence at any interview. It has all the hallmarks of a fishing-trip.

In what way will fraud victims be encouraged to come forward if they know they will face IUC and will be made to feel like criminals?

Totally agree re: the need for advice/representation. Not sure I see the second point at all. If there were witnesses to an assault would one expect them to be asked nicely to come in for a bit of a chat?

Andrew Dutton
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Totally agree re: the need for advice/representation. Not sure I see the second point at all. If there were witnesses to an assault would one expect them to be asked nicely to come in for a bit of a chat?’

One may not unreasonably expect them to be treated as someone who witnessed a crime but did not commit it. One would expect them not to be intimidated.

This claimant is now angry and frightened.

I can’t see anything in online materials which indicates that IUC applies to anyone but the suspect. It may well be that the materials address
an expected audience I suppose.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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This How to deal with a benefit fraud interview which was written by various people including some who post here is still a good guide to IUC’s I think.

Andrew Dutton
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This opens with:

If the office which pays your benefits or tax credits
suspects that you may have committed a criminal
offence with your benefits, they may write and ask
you to have an interview

Again, distinction between victim/witness and perpetrator is needed.