What is fraud?

By Catsup and Mustard
person hacking a computer

Fraud is one of the most commonly committed crimes in the UK, costing the country around £190 billion a year. National statistics show that there are more than 3.5 million acts of fraud committed in one year. A fraud solicitor defines fraud as an illegal act that is committed with dishonest intentions to cause another person to suffer a financial loss. A person will be found guilty of committing fraud even if the victim does not suffer actual loss but rather if it can be proven that the criminal intended to cause the victim to suffer loss.

What are the main types of fraud committed in the UK?

There are several types of fraud that are committed in the UK and the most common types that victims fall foul of are identity fraud, mortgage fraud, credit card fraud, scams, money laundering and social security benefit fraud.

How is social security fraud committed?

Social security benefit fraud is one of the main acts of fraud that gets committed in the UK. There are different ways in which people can commit social security benefit fraud and this includes working while claiming benefits, housing benefit fraud, identity fraud and falsely claiming benefits.

Working while claiming benefits is the most common way in which people commit social security benefit fraud. People may work more hours than they declare to the government and, at the same time, claim benefits. Often, people state that they do not work at all or accept cash in hand to try and hide the fact that they are working and claiming benefits at the same time.

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What happens if someone is suspected of committing social security benefit fraud?

If someone is suspected of committing fraud, the relevant authorities will make contact with them and, at that point, that individual’s benefits will be terminated and they will be further investigated by fraud officers. Should a person be found guilty of committing benefit fraud, then their benefits will be suspended or reduced for up to 3 years. Often, people found guilty of committing benefit fraud are required to pay back all the money they had claimed illegally and fraudulently. In addition, in some circumstances, an individual may be required to pay a penalty fine and this can vary in amount, depending on the severity of the fraudulent activity, from £350 to £5000. In most serious cases, people can often get charged with a criminal offence and be taken to court.

What happens when an individual is taken to court?

If someone gets charged with a criminal offence and gets taken to court, they may end up being imprisoned. This is the maximum sentence that is given, depending on the severity of the benefit fraud committed. The sentencing varies and the maximum sentence that the court can give is 10 years imprisonment. Lower sentences will include fines.

The level of sentencing will depend on the severity of the fraud committed and this will be judged on two main factors: culpability and harm.

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