Wakefield mum's warning after fraudulent Universal Credit claim in her name left her with no money

A Wakefield mum who was left with no income after a fraudulent benefits claim was made in her name is calling for a change to the Universal Credit system.

Thursday, 12th November 2020, 12:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th November 2020, 12:39 pm

Agnieszka, from Lupset, was first made aware of the fraudulent claim during a visit from her housing provider to congratulate her on her planned move.

She then discovered that someone had applied for - and been granted - Universal Credit in her name more than 150 miles away in London.

And the benefits she relies on to feed her two young sons and pay her bills were immediately stopped.

Sign up to our daily Wakefield Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A Wakefield mum who was left with no income after a fraudulent benefits claim was made in her name is calling for a change to the Universal Credit system. Agnieszka asked that her last name be left out of the article, as she fears further identity theft in future.

Agnieszka, who did not want her surname revealing in case the fraudsters struck again, said: “Everything had been stopped, they stopped all my money.

“We need to let people know what’s going wrong. It’s unbelievable."

After seeking advice and support from friends and family, Agnieszka discovered that she was not the first person who had experienced fraudulent claims.

In the past week, she says she has been contacted by almost a dozen other people, including several from Wakefield, who have had similar experiences.

Agnieszka wants the system to be made more robust so that individuals’ ID are checked in person by an official from the Department for Work and Pensions or similar, particularly if they are already claiming benefits at another address. Photo: OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

She said: “It has happened to someone here in the same job centre and about five people I’ve already heard from.

“I know even someone who’s been trying to claim Universal Credit for the first time and found out she can’t because someone is already claiming in her name.

“It is something that has happened to many people. It is very strange that this happened to me.

“It feels like a bad dream. I never imagined anything like that could happen to me.”

After being contacted by the Express regarding Agnieszka’s case, the Department for Work and Pensions agreed to reinstate her original benefits, and promised to backdate any payments she may have missed.

According to the government website, people applying for Universal Credit will be asked to provide information including their address, phone number, national insurance number and family situation.

Agnieszka wants the system to be made more robust so that individuals’ ID are checked in person by an official from the Department for Work and Pensions or similar, particularly if they are already claiming benefits at another address.

She wants to know why more questions were not asked about the apparent change in her circumstances.

She said: “Why wasn't anyone thinking that something was wrong?

“I’ve been claiming money for two sons and then suddenly they’re being told I have a daughter. Someone should have been in touch with me.

“It’s not like I applied for something new, it looks like someone made a phone call and just changed it with no problems.

“It’s happening to a lot of Polish people. I know already about a few people from Wakefield having the same problem.

“I just don’t know who to trust now, I get a phone call and I don’t trust who is on the other end.

“I think it can happen to anyone. People should know what’s going wrong. With some people I’ve been told they never claimed and then found out someone claiming in their name for universal credit.”

She fears that other personal details, including her National Insurance number, may have been leaked from somewhere, and could now be used to apply for other things, such as credit, in her name.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit fraud is a matter we take very seriously and any claimant who has been the victim of a scam, and has not benefited from it in any way, will not be held liable for any debt."

The spokesperson said Agnieszka's benefits will be reinstated, and she will receive a backdated payment for any money owed.

They added: “Fraud and error in the benefits system remains very low with 96.5% of benefits paid correctly.

“The vast majority of claims to Universal Credit are legitimate, and we continue to monitor and investigate emerging threats and have systems in place which successfully identify fraud.”

Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of benefit fraud can contact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440, or visit the Action Fraud website.