THE Madrid-based Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) team has cracked down on abroad fraud, investigating 769 cases this past year.
The DWP reports investigating 1,250 cases of abroad fraud in the past five years, putting over 60% of all investigations within the last year.
‘Abroad fraud’ is now the fourth-largest type of benefit fraud, having grown over 90% in the last three years alone.
Typical frauds committed abroad include claims by people leaving Great Britain after their claim starts, people failing to notify DWP before leaving the country or staying abroad for too long, and families neglecting to report the death of a family member living abroad, thus continuing to receive benefits.
“We are toughening the rules to crack down on benefit cheats and recovering more money than ever,” David Freud, Minister of Welfare Reform, said.
Among new measures taken are the increased use of life certificates to stop fraudsters from receiving benefits for dead claimants, as well as increased communications between Spanish and British authorities.
Spain’s top convicted offender, 63-year-old Janice Purdie, received over €163,000 over nine years in Income Support, Pension Credit, Disability Living Allowance, Housing Benefits and Council Tax Benefits before being caught.
She pleaded guilty this month to benefit fraud and faces one year in prison.
Though Spain tops the list of UK abroad fraud with more than 769 cases investigated in the last year, according to 2012 statistics it is only the third most popular destination for UK expats on a whole, behind Australia and the US, and just the fifth most popular among pensioners (Canada and Ireland, which sit in the 4th and 5th spot for most UK expats, both have more pensioners than Spain).
After Spain, the runner-up countries with the highest abroad fraud rates are Pakistan (628 cases), Turkey (298 cases), and India (282) cases, none of which even make the list of top ten most popular UK expat destinations.
Abroad fraud totaled €103 million in 2013-2014, including €60 million of Pension Credit, €14 million of Housing Benefit, €10 million of Income Support and €19 million of Employment and Support Allowance. The total was slightly below the €106 million in 2012-2013, after rising from €69 million in 2011-2012 and €62 million in 2010-2011.
To report any suspected abroad fraud taking place in Spain, call the DWP hotline at 900 544 400. All calls are free and confidential.