With summer approaching, Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is sending a warning to people who commit benefit fraud abroad.
In a visit to the DWP’s Pension, Benefits & Healthcare team in Madrid, Iain Duncan Smith warned British people living abroad not to break the strict rules on what benefits they can and can’t claim. He also urged law-abiding Brits to use the dedicated Spanish fraud hotline to report benefit thieves.
People who are pretending to live in the UK to claim benefits, but are actually living overseas cost the taxpayer an estimated £43 million last year. More allegations of people living in Spain whilst continuing to receive UK benefits are received than for any other foreign country, making Spain the number one country for abroad fraud.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:
“We are determined to clamp down on benefit fraud abroad, which cost the British taxpayer around £43 million last year. This money should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves overseas. The vast majority of British people overseas are law abiding, but fraudulently claiming benefits while living abroad is a crime and we are committed to putting a stop to it.”
Since its launch in 2008, over 750 calls to the Spanish hotline have resulted in criminal investigations by fraud investigators in the UK and over 100 people have been sanctioned or prosecuted. 134 cases are currently being investigated and £3.1 million in benefit over payments have been identified and will be reclaimed.
The small Pension, Benefit & Healthcare team based in Spain provide support to the estimated 1million Britons living there. They work with the Spanish Authorities on behalf of the DWP and Department of Health to prevent and detect benefit fraud, ensure correct access to the Spanish healthcare system, and combat misuse of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Abroad fraud involves a range of scams such as people on means-tested benefits going abroad but failing to declare their absence, undeclared property abroad, and individuals working while claiming sickness benefits. In Spain, claims for Income Support or Pension Credit are the most frequently investigated for fraud.
If you suspect someone of benefit fraud in Spain you can call Benefit Fraud Hotline in Spain on: 900 554 440 or you can report a thief online via: www.dwp.gov.uk/benefit-thieves