A benefit fraudster who claimed his wife was really his sister, and another who said she needed the cash for satellite TV, are among the latest examples of strange excuses that Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) benefit fraud investigators have heard over the last year.
Other odd stories told to DWP officers include a claimant who, using a fake ID, said her skin colour had changed after a road accident; a man who blamed his evil twin; and a woman who claimed she wasn’t in a relationship but just had a three-night stand resulting in three children over five years.
These unlikely stories are revealed as the British Government announces a new campaign to target benefit fraudsters - encouraging claimants to come clean about changes to their circumstances and urging the public to call the Benefit Fraud Hotline. The campaign will remind claimants to report all changes in their circumstances when they happen and before DWP investigators turn their attention to their claim. Changes in circumstances can include things like moving or buying property abroad, moving in with a partner or starting work.
Members of the public living in Portugal are reminded that they can anonymously report suspected fraud by calling the UK Benefit Fraud Hotline in Portugal on 800 208 638. Phone lines are open Monday to Friday 7am – 3pm and all calls are free and confidential.
Minister for Welfare Reform David Freud said: “Hardworking taxpayers lost an outrageous £1.2 billion in benefit fraud last year.”
“Our investigators across Europe are stepping up and taking advantage of the latest technology so fraudsters can be identified, traced and caught.
“The minority of claimants attempting to siphon off benefit cash need to know our teams are cracking down on them. Bare-faced lies are frankly transparent in the face of the evidence.”
Richard West, DWP Head of Fraud Investigations, said: “We are used to fraudsters telling tall tales to hide their crimes.”
“When faced with the evidence, most people hold their hands up and admit what they’ve done. But some people refuse to admit they have been caught stealing. Some people will keep on trying to lie as a way out – even to the point of ridiculousness. They usually just end up digging them themselves deeper into a hole.”
This summer DWP investigators were asked for the strangest excuses they have heard from benefit fraudsters.
Here are ten of the best:
• In Liverpool a claimant insisted that she didn’t have a relationship with a man who stayed most nights of the week. When it was pointed out that they had 3 children together in a 5-year period, she said: "We're all entitled to a one night stand aren't we?” She was again reminded that there were three children. Her answer: "Well, a three-night stand then".
• A claimant from Worcester tried to say: “It's not my partner, it's my sister.” When the investigator held up their wedding certificate, he replied: “That was a drunken mistake.”
• A man interviewed in Folkestone regarding a failure to declare his night-watchman job said: "I only claim benefits during the day - what I do at night is my own business".
• Another claimant from Folkestone was interviewed regarding failing to declare her partner: "He doesn't live here, he just comes every morning to collect his sandwiches and kiss me good morning before going to work".
• A Gloucester jobseeker filled in his application form and said he didn’t have a partner living with him: His excuse: “It's her property so she doesn't live with me, I live with her.”
• In an identity fraud trial, the alleged fraudster from London claimed she was a white female depicted in photos even though her skin colour was black and suggesting her face had changed shape following a car crash.
• Said a claimant from Glasgow: “You have me confused with my evil twin brother. He lives in Pakistan and visits the UK regularly.” The man had two Pakistani passports, one in his own name and the other in the identity of his ‘twin’. Both passports listed all his own children. The excuse? “My brother has children born on the same dates with the same names.”
• "I didn't tell you about my private pension because it’s private.”
• A North East DLA claimant asked why she claimed she was incapable of cleaning her own house when she was working as a full-time bus cleaner: "By the time I come in from work, I’m that knackered."
• And finally: "It's Christmas so I should be able to keep the extra money.”
Political & Press Section
British Embassy, Lisbon