Fraud cases vary enormously from simple benefit frauds to complex investment scheme frauds. Many of them involve lengthy investigations, a high volume of documents and often involve computer equipment being seized for analysis which can be both distressing and inconvenient.
In defending these allegations thorough case preparation is essential. At Wheldon Law we experience in dealing with most types of fraud and our solicitors are able to provide honest and frank advice and support at every stage of the proceedings. Some of the most common frauds are detailed below:
When a claim for benefits is made the applicant is required to sign a form stating that the information provided on the form is correct and that they will notify the Benefits Agency of any change in their circumstances which might affect their entitlement to benefits.
Nowadays the various government agencies share information so, if there is someone who pays income tax living at the same address as someone who is claiming benefits, there is a good chance that the Department of Work & Pensions will become aware of this and investigate the matter. Usually the first thing people know about an investigation is when they receive a letter from the Benefits Agency inviting them to come into their offices for a voluntary interview under caution.
Where there has been an overpayment of benefits of less than £2,000 the Benefits Agency will usually the claimant a caution or an administrative penalty whereby they agree to repay the sum plus an additional sum (usually 30%) as a penalty. For sums in excess of £2,000 a prosecution will usually be brought. Examples of benefit prosecutions include:
- Failing to tell the Benefits Agency about your true financial circumstances when the claim was made – eg failing to disclose savings or income from employment.
- Failing to tell the Benefits Agency about your true living arrangements – eg you were living with a partner but claiming benefits as a lone parent.
- Using a false identity to claim benefit.
- Not telling the Benefits Agency about a change in circumstances that might affect your entitlement to benefits – eg an inheritance or a lottery win.
Passport & Identity fraud
It is a serious offence to be involved in the making of, or use of false documents and prison sentences are often imposed for these types of offence. It is also an offence to own equipment that could be used to make forged documents or to dishonestly obtain someone’s personal details (eg name, address and bank account details). If you carry out any transaction using someone else’s details it will be seen as identity fraud.
Fraudulent investment schemes can be complex and come in a number of different forms:
Ponzi/Pyramid Schemes – these schemes usually offer a high return on an invested sum in a short space of time.
Boiler Room Fraud – these schemes involve selling investors shares for a much higher price that they are worth or selling shares in a company that doesn’t exist. Investors are usually targeted by “cold-calling” on the telephone. The callers are often based abroad which can make it difficult when it comes to recovering any money invested.
Recovery Room Fraud – these frauds are linked to Boiler Room frauds and occur when the victim of a Boiler Room fraud is persuaded to pay an advance fee supposedly for help in recovering lost money.
It is an offence to dishonestly access a closed computer system, even if no activity is carried out once the system has been entered.
Advance fee fraud
This offence is committed when someone pays money in advance for goods or a service that the provider has no intention of providing. These offences are commonplace on the internet.
VAT fraud charges can be brought under either s72 Value Added Tax Act 1974 or the Fraud Act 2006. These cases usually involve a business not paying enough VAT, reclaiming too much VAT or falsifying accounts in order to avoid paying VAT or to reduce liability.
An offence of false accounting is committed if someone intentionally falsifies, alters or submits false, inaccurate or deceptive records for accounting purposes. This can involve tax or VAT records or can be to make a company’s performance seem stronger that it really is.
It is an offence to travel on the railways without a valid ticket for your entire journey. If you are stopped by a ticket inspector, it is a matter for their discretion whether you are reported for prosecution or offered a penalty fare. If the latter, you will be required to pay the fare plus an additional amount by way of a penalty. Increasingly, the decision is being taken to prosecute however, it is sometimes possible to challenge that decision and reach an out of court settlement, thus avoiding a criminal record and the stress of having to appear at court.