Crackdown on UK benefit cheats who live abroad

Sunbathers on a beach at San Sebastian in the Basque country, Spain
Image caption The government says "abroad fraud" cost the taxpayer £66m last year

A crackdown has been launched by the government on UK benefit cheats who live abroad.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has joined forces with overseas counterparts to target the countries where the most cases take place.

The DWP said the highest instances of fraud was recorded by people living in Spain, Pakistan, the US and Bangladesh.

Scams include people not declaring they have moved abroad or claiming for relatives who have died.

Others examples were of people working while abroad, having unreported assets such as property, savings or even yachts, or exaggerating a level of disability.

Claimants are told to notify the DWP if they go abroad as it could affect entitlement to benefits.

UK fraud investigators work with overseas organisations such as land registries, as well as the Foreign Office and British banks, to track down the cheats.

'Lining pockets'

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud said "abroad fraud" cost the taxpayer about £66m last year.

He said the rate of fraud was rising as more people chose to live overseas: "We are on an uphill curve."

He said the money "should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves overseas."

He described the fraud as "corrosive to the benefits system."

The DWP was the biggest department of state, Lord Freud said. "If people feel this money is not being spent properly it undermines the whole rationale for the welfare state."

The government has recently launched a hotline in Portugal for people to report benefit crime, adding to an existing service available in Spain.

One benefit cheat living in Granada, Spain, was recently caught after a hotline call.

She had claimed more than £10,000 income support and child tax credits since 2006 despite living with a partner abroad.

She later pleaded guilty in court and was ordered to complete community service and to repay the money.

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