To help Warrington residents stay one step ahead, WHA Money Advice Officer, Steven, warns of a recent scam targeting benefit claimants.
How does the scam work?
Scammers have been posing as government officials to offer loans to benefit claimants to persuade into sharing their personal details. A claim for Universal Credit is then made in their name and a Benefit Advance applied for, but the scammer will switch the bank details on the claim so the victim never receives the money. This can have a devastating effect because the first thing the victim knows about it is when all their existing benefits stop. They could also end up stuck on Universal Credit, which might be paid at a much lower rate, and will have deductions made to repay the Benefit Advance that the scammer has stolen.
The Government has indicated that they will look at all incidents individually and will consider writing off the money and putting people back on their previous benefits.
What can you do about it?
If the Universal Credit claim has been made by a scammer entirely without the knowledge or consent of the victim, it is possible to argue that a valid Universal Credit claim has not been made. You need to act fast as there is only a one-month window to challenge the decision to end previous benefits by requesting a formal reconsideration.
However, if the victim has contributed to making the Universal Credit claim, even if this is a result of misleading advice from the scammer, it may be more difficult to put this argument forward.
Other things to consider
If you have fallen victim to this scam, it is advisable to report it to the Police and to Action Fraud. You should also notify your bank and change any online banking passwords/PIN numbers if your account details have been compromised.
Where to get help
Residents of Warrington Housing Association, customers of WHiA and members of LifeTime can contact Steven for help and advice about this issue. Otherwise, you can contact your local advice agency such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.