To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the value was of all claims identified as fraudulent benefit claims through identity theft; how much has been recovered from those fraudulent claims; and how many people have been prosecuted for fraudulent benefit claims through identity theft in (a) 2018-2019, (b) 2019-2020 and (c) 2020-2021.
1 November 2021
Where there is a suspicion of fraud, the Department takes the issue extremely seriously. DWP’s Integrated Risk and Intelligence Service coordinates the detection of, and response to, fraud risks from organised crime groups detecting and shutting down systematic attacks. Last year, this led us to suspend 152,000 Universal Credit claims and prevented £1.9 billion in benefits from being paid to people trying to defraud the system.
The table below shows the number of Fraud Investigations concluded in each of the requested years where the allegation was recorded as Identity Fraud and the primary benefit in payment was Universal Credit. Also shown is the value associated to these Investigations.
Cases closed - all outcomes (figures rounded to nearest 100)
Values calculated in respect of above cases (rounded to nearest 100)
*As this was identified as a result of serious and organised fraud this figure reflects the number of referrals made and not the number of individual claims that may be incorporated in that referral.
**These cases and values do not include the large number of additional Identity Fraud attempts during 2020/21 (many of which were the result of co-ordinated attacks) which we spotted and stopped before they went into payment, as the cases are still ongoing.
DWP’s Debt Management system does not match recovery to specific fraud type, so it is not possible to state how much money has been recovered in relation to closed cases classified as Identity Fraud.
Covid-19 restrictions have impacted prosecution cases as it has not been possible to carry out face to face interviews. This is because a face to face interview under caution, carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, is a legal requirement before a case can be referred for either prosecution or for an administrative penalty to be issued.
However, DWP is making considerable progress in securing Covid safe rooms across the country for its fraud investigators and is also securing digital facilities, which will enable interviews to be conducted remotely.
DWP will always look to prosecute this type of offence to the full extent where possible and conducted 4 prosecutions for this offence in 2018/19, 9 in 2019/20 and 3 in 2020/21.
There will always be a time lag between the formal investigation and the court’s final verdict, but a number of investigations into hijacked identity are currently being pursued and will come to court in due course.
DWP is currently considering how future legislative change could help target fraud and error even more acutely moving forwards.
All cases where ‘Departmental error’ leads to overpayments of Universal Credit are logged on DWP’s Debt Management system as Official Error cases. These debts are recoverable. The table below shows the total number of these cases recorded on the system in each of the last 3 years.
*figures rounded to nearest 1000
Ensuring benefit correctness is a DWP priority. Despite an additional 3 million claimants to Universal Credit as a result of Covid-19, published National Statistics on Fraud and Error in the Benefit System show that Universal Credit Official Error fell in 2020/21 from 1.3% to 0.9% of benefit expenditure.
Note that the data supplied in this response is derived from unpublished management information which was collected for internal Departmental use only and has not been quality assured to National Statistics or Official Statistics publication standard. The data should therefore be treated with caution.