Being reported to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is undoubtedly a stressful experience and matters only seem to get worse when you do not know who reported you in the first place. If you have been wondering whether you can find out who reported you to the DWP, you have come to the right place. This, along with a number of other common questions about the DWP reporting process, are answered below, with information provided at the end for those who need some extra help.
Unfortunately, there is no simple way of determining who has reported you to the DWP. The DWP does not release this information so as to ensure – as far as possible – the anonymity and safety of those who have come forward to report a potential fraudster. If names were freely available, very few people would come forward with reports for fear of retaliation.
In the vast majority of cases, the only way to find out who reported you to the DWP is to be told – either by the person who reported you, or by someone else. If the alleged fraud is serious enough to be sent to court, the person who reported you may end up serving as a witness, although there may be no obligation for them to do so.
Most people find out they are being investigated by the DWP when they receive a notice letter through the post. On rare occasions, the DWP may seek to inform you of an impending investigation by phone or email if they are not sure of an exact address for you.
In the letter, you will be told that an investigation has been or is due to commence. The letter will also contain detailed instructions if you are required to do anything, along with applicable deadlines. You might, for example, be asked to attend an interview under caution or you may be told that a Fraud Investigation Officer (FIO) will come to visit you. It is very important that you follow the instructions carefully as any failure to comply with the DWP requirements will cast you in a bad light, and may affect the severity of any punishments ultimately given to you if you are found guilty of fraud.
Frustratingly, there are no set time limits in which a DWP investigation must be completed. Some take a matter of weeks whereas others can take months or even years if the case is particularly complex.
That said, in general, there are four or five stages to an investigation. Using these stages as a guide, you can judge how long might be left until you get a decision:
As annoying as it is not knowing what is happening in your case, you have to remember that benefit fraud investigation processes can take a long time. Throughout, it is important that you stay as calm and co-operative as possible to minimise the impact of the investigation on other areas of your life.
One thing is for certain, however. The more you co-operate with the investigators, for example by providing documentation on time and attending interviews when you are required to, the quicker the investigation will be over.
DWP investigators have a wide range of strategies and tactics for uncovering fraud, which makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what a DWP investigation involves. Exact approaches will vary depending on the case at hand, but could include: surveillance, document collection and review, interviews, financial inspections, and other investigative techniques.
In short, yes. The DWP may access your bank account while they are investigating you. In some cases, they require the permission of the court to do so, but in others they are able to use the same powers as the police and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to investigate an individual. The DWP cannot force payments from your account, but they can view what comes in and goes out of it in order to piece together a picture of your lifestyle.
Again, in short, yes. If you have information publicly posted to the Internet, such as on an open Facebook or Instagram page, the DWP may be able to access it and use it in a case against you. Pictures on someone’s account may, for example, prove that they do not have the disability they are claiming. Or, they might show someone living a lavish lifestyle that is not consistent with the income declared for the purposes of assessing their benefits. Accordingly, the DWP may take copies of social media posts, photos, videos, location check-ins, and other content to use in the investigation.
In general, there is no financial reward offered by the government or any other body for reporting benefits cheats. While some councils have – on occasion – used cash rewards as a means of attracting fraud reports, most councils nowadays sensibly recognise that doing so will only increase the number of false and malicious reports made against individuals, which aside from being distressing for the victims of the false report, also cost the government considerable time and money.
If someone is threatening to report you to the DWP, or if you suspect you may have already been reported, the best thing to do is contact an experienced criminal defence solicitor and book an initial consultation. The solicitor will help you understand what it means – legally and practically speaking – to be under investigation by the DWP and will help you put measures in place to limit the impact on you and your family. To arrange a consultation with one of the highly-experienced experts at Stuart Miller Solicitors, please get in touch.