Benefit Fraud Scare Tactics – Guide to Dealing with Benefit Fraud Investigations & Interviews Under Caution
Benefit fraud reduction means different things for different people. For DWP and HMRC it seems the goal is simply to reduce the number of people receiving benefits by any means possible.
It’s definitely true that some of the people who receive the “invitation” for an interview under caution are guilty, but even when that is the case; the matter is not usually dealt with in an appropriate way. The response by authorities to even the most minor transgressions is often so over the top it would almost be comical if it were not such a grave concern.
This is not the Britain our parents and grandparents wanted to create. Those who suffered through terrible deprivations during World War II wanted to ensure that never again would anyone in our nation have to live that way.
This is why we created a National Health Service that for many years served as a role model to the rest of the world. It is why the NIC scheme was created. And of course it is the reason why we created a range of pensions and benefits to ensure that everyone in our society would have an adequate chance of survival. Which is exactly the problem with the Austerity conditions that are now threatening the survival of tens of thousands of people, and indeed many of the most vulnerable have already perished.
The bill for social welfare is fairly high, but it is nothing in comparison to the money that is wasted on many other things that have no benefit to society in any way at all. At least even the keenest scrounger will contribute to society by spending the money they receive. Hardly anyone on benefits has savings, and in fact many of them are spending more than they can afford. The net balance of their income to expenditure is close to zero. This means zero negative effect, as the money is mostly circulated. Without pensioners and other benefits recipients, many small businesses would really struggle to exist, as full time workers have no time to grace those businesses with their presence.
Forcing people off benefits is not a solution to the economic crisis because it actually adds to that crisis by creating more extreme levels of poverty. This can have other undesirable effects in the community, such as more people turning to drugs and drink, more suicides, and more crime. Cleaning up all of that is sure to be more costly in the long term.
Regardless of all that, the situation as it stands now is that DWP and HMRC are on a mission to be seen to be reducing the level of benefit fraud. It’s not clear whether it matters that they actually do reduce the amount of fraud, as long as they are seen to be doing so. Consequently the approach is to simply cast a very wide net, and if a lot of innocent or disadvantaged people are swept up, this is purely incidental. That’s because these government departments and their private contractors can successfully create the image of being “Defenders of the Public Purse”. Many thousands of people may be inconvenienced, but the show must go on.
The process involves third party contractors who perform investigations and send out threatening form letters, including the dreaded invitation to attend an interview under caution. There are a few important legal things to be aware of concerning the interview invitation:
- You don’t have to attend the interview
- The sole purpose of the interview is to gather evidence to prosecute you with
- You have nothing to gain from the interview
Frequently people – especially those who believe themselves to be innocent – make the mistake of thinking the interview will give them the chance to set things straight and tell their side of the story. The truth is that once matters have progressed to this stage, nobody cares about your side of the story unless it leads to you paying a big fine, going to prison, or both.
If anything you say during the interview makes you look good, it will be ignored, because that would make the investigators and prosecution team look bad. If anything you say can be twisted to make you look bad, it will be. They will use every tactic they can including using “weasel words”, intimidation, and anything else they can think of to make you slip up and say something they can use as evidence against you.
We never allow you to attend an interview under caution
It helps if you understand that by the time they send out a letter to you, money has been invested in arranging for your prosecution. It would hardly do for the government to be seen to have wasted that money; therefore it is important to get a result. They won’t be very pleased if you don’t give them their result.
This is the reason why no Hylton-Potts client ever attends an interview under caution. We don’t even suggest that you should attend such an interview with an expert legal advisor to assist you every step of the way, although of course that is still a far better option than trying to handle the matter entirely on your own.
Our clients never attend these interviews because it is not in their interest to do so. The interview is always a horrible experience and there is nothing to be gained from it, while a tiny mistake could have massive consequences for you. The approach we take is to properly decline the interview on behalf of our client (but notice the word “properly” in there, it’s important!) and then deal with the relevant department directly. We have an excellent success rate in resolving issues this way, and even those who are genuinely guilty will have way less trouble once we take over the case for them.
Unlike the government team, we are 100% committed to defending your interests and making sure you are shown in the best possible light. Whatever you may have done (or not done) we are not judging you. We understand that people do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, and they don’t always carefully think through the consequences before they act, and after something is done, it is often too late to undo it.
Your story is important
While the government employees and their contractors are not interested in your story except as a means of ensuring your prosecution, we are interested in your story. We want to know everything about the circumstances that led to you getting into trouble. If you are innocent, you may not know exactly what happened to put you in the frame, and that’s fine because we can still benefit a lot from knowing the full story of your circumstances. We can also use our powers as lawyers to compel the government side to disclose the evidence they have gathered against you. This will also help us to defend you and make the problem go away.
Let me reassure you that the majority of our clients who are accused of benefit fraud:
- Never – attend an interview under caution
- Never – be questioned by police in relation to the matter
- Never – have to go to court
- Never – get a criminal record resulting from the incident
- We ensure – No Penalty is Awarded Against Them or have the Penalty Significantly Reduced
Of course it is not possible in every case for the matter to be dropped completely. Some people actually are guilty, and some are much more guilty than others. Naturally, in more serious cases the government must get their pound of flesh, but we have been very successful in persuading them to accept much less than they would like to take.
The threat must not be ignored
Something else I would really like to bring to your attention is that even though we don’t recommend that you ever attend an interview under caution, we are not suggesting for a moment that you should simply ignore the letter. No, that would be a very grave mistake indeed.
What you should do if you receive a letter from DWP or HMRC telling you that you are being investigated for benefit fraud or being summoned to attend an interview under caution is to contact us right away and let us know what’s going on. Do not, under any circumstances, respond to the letter directly! That is exactly what they are hoping you will do.
If you are contacted by telephone, you should politely state that you are unable to discuss the matter and that you are going to seek legal advice. This is not something that should worry you, because getting legal advice is not a sign of guilt and it is certainly not something they are able to use against you. In fact, if they try to use your seeking of legal advice against you, that is something we can use to turn the tables on them so don’t worry that consulting us will tip your hand or anything like that. You definitely need to have somebody on your side fighting in your corner for you, and it is best to have us there, because we are the experts in resolving benefit fraud cases.
Finally, if a benefit fraud investigator who wishes to ask you questions approaches you, you should again politely decline and contact us immediately. Always remember to be polite to those who are trying to prosecute you. Never shout, lose your temper, or use violence, because all of these reactions will make the situation much worse for you. Remain calm, no matter what they say to you, and be polite. You will have your chance later, and you’ll be in a much better position to win if you resist the temptation to speak your mind at the first confrontation.
Even in the most serious cases, you can rely on our help
In the very unlikely event that the first you are aware of the matter is that you are arrested by the police, stay calm. We can help you even in this situation. It is not normal for people to be arrested in the first instance, so it would generally mean that they believe they have a strong case against you and that they believe whatever you have done is very serious. No matter what, you are as entitled to legal advice as anybody else, and we can get you out of there and back in your own home in almost no time at all.
The game plan: everything you must do from the start
In summary, the following rules will help to clarify what you should do if you’re accused:
- Never respond directly
- Keep your cool, avoid reacting with hostility
- Contact Hylton-Potts as soon as you possibly can
- Do not ignore the situation and hope it will go away because it won’t!
Once you have initiated contact with us and we have your permission to act on your behalf, we will immediately commence to do so. We will contact the department that is investigating you and secure their co-operation, which they are legally required to provide to us. We will make them rescind their interview request and accept a written statement in lieu. We will then do everything necessary to improve the outcome for you.
Don’t allow yourself to become another statistic in the benefit fraud crackdown. The moment you think you may be in any trouble at all, get in touch with us on 020 7381 8111 or send an email to [email protected] for a fast, confidential, and obligation-free discussion about your problem and how we can help you solve it.
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