Benefit fraudLast updated: 01 May 2013 12:28 UK
Housing benefit and council tax support fraud is not a victimless crime - taxpayers bear the cost.
Portsmouth City Council's counter fraud unit is a team of specially-trained officers who prevent, detect, deter, correct and punish fraudulent benefit and council tax support activity. The counter fraud unit also works in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions. When fraudulent activity is detected, the counter fraud unit will apply the benefits service anti-fraud policies and process.
How to report benefit fraud - contact the counter fraud unit
You can contact the counter fraud unit by email at email@example.com, or by phone on 023 9284 1550. If you know of anyone fraudulently claiming housing benefit or council tax support please contact us immediately, complete our online benefit fraud reporting form, or download, print, complete and return the form below:
What counts as benefit fraud?
Housing benefit and council tax support is means tested. This means that we have to obtain specific information about people who wish to claim so that their entitlement can be calculated correctly.
Fraud occurs when a person gets more housing benefit or excess council tax support than they are entitled to by knowingly, or dishonestly, withholding or falsifying information related to their claim. Benefit fraud can include:
- Undeclared income - if you do not tell us about money you or your partner have coming into your household, at any point during the time you are claiming, you are in breach of the terms you agree to when claiming housing benefit or council tax support. We need to know about all of your income - regardless of hours worked, amount earned or source of income. Please declare any change to your or your partner's income to the benefits service as soon as possible.
- Undeclared capital - capital includes any accounts, savings, and investments you or your partner have, as well as any property you, or your partner, own, whether someone is living there or not. As with income all capital, investments and property should be declared at the start of any claim and during the claim if changes occur.
- Undeclared partner in your household - this can either be not telling us about a partner living in your household when you first make a claim, or if your partner moves into your household during your claim.
- Other types of housing benefit and council tax support fraud include: not living at the declared address, failing to declare a non-dependant and falsifying claim documents.
This is not a full list of fraudulent behaviour - all questions relating to your housing benefit and council tax support claim should be answered truthfully.
What action does the council take if benefit fraud is discovered?When housing benefit or council tax support fraud is established we may take enforcement action against the offender. We will consider prosecution or administering an alternative sanction for any offence which breaches the law regarding the award of housing benefit or council tax support. Sanctions can include:
- A formal caution
- An administrative penalty
- Penalty as an alternative to prosecution (council tax support only)
A fixed penalty may also be incurred by people who have made incorrect statements or failed to notify a change of circumstances, resulting in excess council tax support. The council will pursue recovery of overpaid housing benefit and excess council tax support whether enforcement action is taken or not. Please note: a formal caution and financial penalties are alternatives to prosecution. If an offender is offered a sanction and refuses it, the council retains the right to prosecute.
For further information about sanctions and prosecution please see the housing benefit and council tax support anti-fraud policy below.
If we want to discuss your claim for housing benefit or council tax support
If we have reason to believe that you have possibly committed an offence regarding a claim for housing benefit or council tax support, we may invite you to attend an interview under caution.
This does not mean that we believe you are guilty or that you will be prosecuted - an interview under caution takes place when an investigation establishes evidence that an offence may have been committed. You will be given an opportunity to give an explanation regarding the evidence presented at the interview, which takes place in accordance with the law.
You do not have to attend an interview under caution, but failing to attend may not prevent us from taking further action. If you do attend, a friend or relative that is unconnected to the investigation may come with you for support, and you may also bring a solicitor or legal advisor. If you require an interpreter of any kind at an interview under caution please contact us. Please see the interview under caution information leaflets below for more information.