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Spain tops list of UK 'abroad fraud'

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Spain tops list of UK 'abroad fraud'
Spain was the only country in Europe which made the top five 'abroad fraud' list. Photo: PropagandalfFlickr
14:26 CET+01:00
Spain has a higher number of UK benefit cheats than any other country in the world, new figures provided by the British Embassy reveal. More than 750 cases were investigated in Spain last year by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Abroad fraud cost British taxpayers an estimated £84 million (€101m) in 2012/13 - up 90 percent in the last two years.

It is now the third largest type of benefit cheating and includes fraudulent claims for Pension Credit (£52m), Housing Benefit (£19m) and Income Support (£12m).

"Benefits are there to help those who need it and the vast majority play by the rules and would not once dream of cheating," Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, said.

"But there is a minority who really try to take the biscuit.

 "We have safeguards in place to bring these types of cases to our attention and we will make sure benefits are stopped when there is evidence of a fraud being committed."

New data shows where DWP investigators looked into 7,296 cases of suspected abroad fraud during 2013.

The top 5 nations involved were:

.           Spain - 769 cases

.           Pakistan - 628 cases

.           Turkey - 298 cases

.           India - 282 cases

.           USA - 246 cases

Figures also reveal that DWP has investigated benefit entitlement for claimants living in countries as far apart as the Holy See, Somalia, China, and Iraq.

Abroad fraud includes claims by people leaving Great Britain after their claim starts, those failing to notify DWP before leaving the country or staying abroad for too long, and families who fail to report the death of someone living abroad permanently and receiving benefits.

The Government is increasing the use of data sharing with foreign countries including Spain in order to combat fraud. Details of claimants who have died whilst in Spain and elsewhere abroad are sent to the UK, helping the DWP to stop families or friends who are fraudulently continuing to claim pensions or benefits.

Richard West, Head of DWP's counter-fraud teams said:

"Cases range from people hiding foreign assets and homes to those moving abroad, either temporarily or permanently, at the taxpayers' expense.

"Benefit cheats need to know that even if they are out of the country, our teams will still investigate and where necessary bring them back to the UK to face justice."

Cases referred to DWP are investigated and where an administrative penalty or criminal prosecution is appropriate, action is taken. In all cases DWP will seek to recover all the money overpaid.

Abroad Fraud has risen to £84m in 2012/13 from £55m in 2011/12 and £44m in 2010/11.

If you suspect a benefit cheat in Spain, then you can call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) hotline on 900 554 440. It’s free and confidential, and you could help to put a stop to taxpayers’ money going to the wrong people.

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