Rishi Sunak baffles MP with claims Universal Credit is 'generous'
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One person took to Reddit after an identity thief left them owing the DWP £1,100.Others have come forward to share their own stories too, shining a light on the tactic.
Reddit user Human-Use6591 posted on the forum r/UKPersonalFinance, where people can share experiences and seek information from others.
The post explained that the user had received a letter from the DWP letting them know that 20 percent of their paycheque was going to be deducted to pay back the £1,100 they owed from Universal Credit.
However, they highlighted: “I didn’t ever owe this.”
The user had opened a Universal Credit account in March 2020 after losing their job, however they closed their account in September 2021, after months of not receiving payments as they had started working in September 2020.
Human-Use6591 said: “I called them and tried to figure out why I was being told I had this, it turns out that another account was opened in my name in October 2021 and the amount was for a loan that they offer you when you first open an account, which I declined when it was offered to me the first time.”
They got through to the debt department and explained that this entire situation was an identity fraud issue.
To avoid losing 20 percent of their paycheque they agreed to go onto a repayment plan of £5 a month.
They reached out on Reddit for advice as they claimed using mainstream advice hotlines was sending them in circles between the DWP, benefit fraud hotline, Action Fraud and Citizens Advice.
Another user, Grzybek36, responded to the post with their own similar experience, saying: “I had this issue a few months ago, someone used my identity to request UC advance payment.
“Best course of action is to call DWP, say you have been victim of fraud and identity thief and then the DWP fraud department should sort it out. They will normally call you later to ask you questions and put your debt on hold. And a few months later, your debt will be dismissed.
“This is what happened for me.”
Thousands of people across the UK experience identity theft every year and it can often require months of fixing the damage left behind by fraudsters.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We know that fraudsters will continue to try to make fraudulent Universal Credit claims using stolen identities and we have countermeasures in place which allow us to identify these claims at the earliest opportunity in the majority of cases.
“Verification of new claimants’ identity remains at the core of the checks the DWP undertakes before new claims are processed and we have recently secured an additional £600million of additional funding to help us find, stop, and recover the proceeds from Universal Credit fraud.
“Fraud and error in the benefits system remains very low with 95 percent of benefits worth more than £200billion paid correctly and last year, we suspended 152,000 Universal Credit claims, preventing £1.9billion in benefits from being paid to fraudsters.”
The DWP has seen skyrocketing demand for Universal Credit during the pandemic, a time when processing the applications was made even more difficult with altered systems and little staff.
The Department says that anyone who receives one of these debt recovery letters but believes it is related to a fraudulent claim should contact 0800 916 0647.
The DWP has a Stolen ID Team created to deal with situations like this and intends to ensure that debt recovery is suspended where appropriate.
This should help Britons who have their identity stolen and are now expected to pay back the money they never received from benefits they didn’t claim.
Additionally, millions are being invested to improve the DWP’s capacity to detect, deter and deal with benefit fraudsters.
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