Home Need to know Knowsley residents urged to be extra vigilant – Universal Credit scam

Knowsley residents urged to be extra vigilant – Universal Credit scam

by Laura Johnston

Residents are being urged to be extra vigilant following an increase in the North West of fraudsters offering ‘low cost government loans’ – such loans do not exist. Fraudsters are using the scam to obtain personal information to commit fraud and unfortunately, Knowsley residents have fallen victim to this scam after being visited at home by someone claiming to be from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The fraudsters use the victim’s personal details to make a claim for Universal Credit and request an ‘Advance Payment’.  This is part of a Universal Credit award which can be received quickly – it can be up to 100% of the value of the Universal Credit claim. The fraudster then takes a ‘cut’ of the Advance Payment, which in some cases has been paid immediately by the individual in cash. The fraudster then has the victim’s personal details, making them vulnerable to further fraud.

The individuals being targeted don’t realise that, not only will all their current benefits stop and be replaced by Universal Credit, but that they will then also have to pay back the ‘loan’ (Advance Payment) in full from their future Universal Credit payments. In some cases, false circumstances are being reported when the application is made to maximise the potential Universal Credit payment (and therefore the Advance Payment). This means that the victim has an even higher amount to repay from their Universal Credit payments. Once someone has made a claim for Universal Credit, they will stay on it and won’t be able to return to their original benefits.

Councillor Jayne Aston, Cabinet Member for Resources at Knowsley Council, responded to this scam by saying “It’s a disgrace that some of our most vulnerable residents are being targeted in this way and they need to be aware of these criminals in our communities. The council will be working with its various partners to protect our residents to stop this fraudulent scam”.

Residents are encouraged to follow the advice below to help to prevent them being targeted and the victim of fraud:-

  • Never give money to someone who calls unannounced at your home, out in public or who contacts you by phone, letter or email. Criminal gangs are targeting people for their personal information.
  • Never share personal information with anyone, even if they claim to be an official. Always ask for ID and check this, ideally using contact details you find yourself.
  • It is a criminal offence to knowingly provide false information on a benefit claim. Offenders will be prosecuted by DWP.
  • If you make a false declaration on a benefit claim, it can affect the benefits you already receive.
  • ‘Low cost Government loans’ do not exist – if you have been on benefits for longer than six months you could apply for a Budgeting Loan (Budgeting Advance in Universal Credit).
  • Free advice and support is available for residents through:
    • Citizens Advice Knowsley – call Adviceline on 0300 330 9008 for telephone advice or visit the website for useful advice, locations of offices or start an online chat
  • If you’d like information and advice about Universal Credit, KHT’s website has an Advice Hub where you can find help and support with Universal Credit.

If you have been affected by fraudsters, please report it to www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you think a neighbour is being targeted, or if you see suspicious activity, call Merseyside Police on 101 or contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506.