FRAUDSTERS are targeting hard-up Brits on social media and then making bogus Universal Credit claims that leave victims hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
The Sun warned back in November 2018 that a Universal Credit loophole allows fraudsters to claim cash by making fake advance payments.
But now a BBC investigation reveals that these scammers are using Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to lure in unsuspecting victims.
The scam sees fraudsters take out a Universal Credit budgeting loan in their victim’s name.
The BBC says that one bogus claim listed the victim’s five non-existent children as being called, Give, Me, Some, Money, Now.
Other fake applications included one saying Harry Kane was the claimant’s landlord and another from a 19-year-old mum claiming to have “six blind children”.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.
But these budgeting loans have to be repaid, and in the meantime, existing benefit payments are stopped with Universal Credit payments not kicking in for five weeks.
This can leave families without any money or in a worse position under Universal Credit than they were under their former benefits – particularly as the fraudsters are also taking upfront payments in exchange for these loans.
Although the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has since admitted that victims won’t have to repay these scam loans, and that they could also be put back onto their former benefits.
We spoke to one mum who lost her £780 a month benefits after a fake loan firm signed her up for Universal Credit and stole her cash.
While both Citizens and Advice and Great Manchester Police have issued warnings about the worrying trend.
The BBC lists examples of Gov Grants Same Day, Same Day Grant, Discretionary Budgeting Grant and Same Day Grant Payment on Facebook.
And says Instagram sites include Same Day Drop UK, while Moneyinaminute is advertising the fraud on Snapchat.
Facebook and Instagram, which are part of the same company, told The Sun that these pages have since been removed.
But when The Sun checked today, we found that Gov Grants Same Day and Same Day Grants still appear to be live on Facebook.
The social media giant says it is investigating, and the owner of the pages didn’t respond to our request for comment.
How to protect yourself against fraud
HERE’S how to protect yourself from fraud:
- Always shred or destroy documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
- Never respond to cold calls or emails asking for account details, PINs, passwords or personal information.
- Do not give too much away on networking websites. For example, pets’ names or children’s names that could be used as passwords.
- Register to vote at your current address. If you do not, thieves could use your previous address details to open new credit accounts, and run up debts in your name.
- Monitor your post regularly so you know when to expect important documents – and when to act if they do not arrive.
- Have your post redirected if you move house.
- Always use secure, unique passwords for as many online accounts as possible, and ideally all of them.
- Read all bank and card statements regularly to check for suspicious transactions.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud contact your bank or card provider immediately and report it to Action Fraud.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Sadly, criminals will always attempt to defraud the benefit system and steal money from vulnerable people and the taxpayer.
“The Department is committed to bringing fraudsters to justice – last year we reclaimed more than £1.1billion in fraud and error and brought more than 5,000 prosecutions.
“We are already working with social media sites like Facebook to shut down accounts that promote fraud.
“Our dedicated team investigates all fraudulent advance claims referred to them, which represent less than 1 per cent of all claims. Where there is clear evidence that people have been scammed out of money, they will not be asked to repay it.”
A Facebook spokesperson on behalf of Facebook and Instagram said: “Everyone deserves to feel safe when they use our platforms and we do not allow fraudulent activity.
“We are taking action to protect our community, including donating £3million to Citizens Advice to raise awareness of scams and help those who have been impacted.
“We are also creating a new reporting tool on Facebook in the UK with a dedicated team to review and take action on scam and misleading ads.”
Facebook says Facebook and Instagram users can report scams using its existing in-built tools, although it couldn’t give us a date when its new and improved tool will launch.
Snapchat didn’t get back to us in time for publication.
The Sun is calling for the five-week wait for Universal Credit to be slashed to five as part of our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
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