The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that the Dept of Work and Pensions will not accept any excuses for benefits fraud from British nationals who live abroad. The FCO highlights the case of a 69-year-old British man living in Murcia, southwest Spain who has been handed two suspended prison sentences for claiming that being penniless and homeless had left him no choice but to make a fraudulent claim for benefit. He had failed to tell the DWP that he owned half of a property in Spain when making a claim for Pension Credit. Apart from the suspended custodial sentences, he will now also have to repay the wrongfully claimed monies in full.
The DWP says that it discovered the offence thanks to an anonymous tip-off via the Benefit Fraud Hotline, which resulted in DWP fraud teams based in the UK and Spain launching an investigation. Income-related benefits such as Pension Credit or Income Support cannot be claimed if you live outside of the UK. And if you do live in the UK and make a claim, you must declare any property you own abroad as well as any in the UK. Not doing so is considered to be a criminal offence.
The FCO asks that if you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud, you should call the Benefit Fraud Hotline in Spain on 900 554 440. Lines are open 8am-4pm, Monday to Friday, and all calls are free and confidential. Alternatively, benefit fraud can be reported online at www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud.