Taking credit: don’t fall for this UC scam
There’s a Universal Credit scam making the rounds so make sure you’re keeping a beady eye out for trouble.
Scams have come a long way in the last few years. We used to get emails from a stranger asking us to wire £20,000 as an ‘investment’ and we’d get a million quid back. Now, it seems people targeting us know where we live, who our boss is and what we had for breakfast. It can all appear scarily convincing.
If you’re on benefits it’s extra important to check the identity of anyone who contacts you right now. There’s a Universal Credit scam going around, and it’s easy to get caught out.
Remember, you should never give money to someone who contacts you out of the blue at your home, in public or by phone, letter or email.
Someone claiming to be from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is getting in touch with people offering ‘low cost Government loans and grants’. These don’t actually exist. The scammers are then trying to get them to hand over personal information like proof of ID and bank account details.
They’re then using the information to make false claims for Universal Credit (UC), which is a relatively new benefit for those out of work or on a low income. Because not everyone has been moved onto UC yet, someone ringing up about it could seem legitimate.
They’ve also been asking for an advance payment ‘loan’ from the victims. This could be part, or all, of their full UC claim.
To add insult to injury, the scammers sometimes also then lie when making the claim. They pretend to be the victim and say they’re entitled to more benefits than they actually are. This means the scammers get more money, and leaves the victim with an even larger amount to repay at the end of it.
What impact does it have?
People successfully targeted will have their current benefits stopped and replaced by UC, which can cause issues with their claims. They’ll also have to pay back the advance payment in full from their future UC payments.
Plus, once someone has made a claim for UC they won’t be able to return to their original benefits. This can then cause them problems with their budgeting.
Our customer’s story
One of our customers recently received a phone call from someone claiming to be from DWP’s Income Support department. They withheld their caller ID and told her she might benefit from a budgeting loan. As she was in receipt of income support, she thought it was legit.
They asked her for personal information and answers to her security questions in order to help process the loan.
She was told her application had been submitted and she would receive a text message from the Post Office asking to validate her ID. She got the text and, as instructed, confirmed her identity.
After the verification had gone through she was told she’d actually been the victim of fraud. The scammers warned her not to report them or try to stop the payments as they had her personal information.
Because of this the lady, who has children, had to wait for her first Universal Credit payment. Because of her childcare responsibilities she wasn’t able to work, which meant her income was totally based on her benefits.
Eventually the situation come out and the lady was able to apply for an advance payment of Universal Credit. This would help see her through the transition, but has to be paid back over a 12 month period.
Aside from the inconvenience and money lost, the biggest impact for our customer has been the sudden change to her monthly payments. It also means she’ll be subject to different conditions under Universal Credit than she was under her previous benefits.
At some point in the future the lady would have transferred over to UC anyway. The difference is, this would’ve been managed in a way that let her know what was happening so she could plan around it.
How can I protect myself?
- Never share personal information with anyone, even if they seem official
- Always ask for ID and double check it by getting in touch with your regular contact – e.g. Onward – directly
- It’s a criminal offence to knowingly provide false information on a benefit claim and it could affect the benefits you already receive
- If you’ve been on benefits for longer than six months you could apply for a Budgeting Loan (Budgeting Advance in UC)
If you’ve been affected by fraudsters or believe someone you know is being targeted, there is help out there.
Contact www.actionfraud.police.uk, call the police on 101 or get in touch with Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506. There’s also a Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 which can give you more information.
If you’re an Onward customer you can also get in touch with our team for advice