Citizens Advice Cornwall has issued a warning about a new scam involving identity theft and Universal Credit claims.
These scams involve a small number of cases where a person has had their identity stolen and the fraudster has then made a claim for Universal Credit. This process automatically stops the person’s Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and other benefits. The first the victims knew about this was when they received letters saying their awards had been stopped.
In these circumstances it is possible for the benefits to be reinstated but this can be a lengthy process and a worrying time for victims.
One victim – a mother of four on a low income – had a request from an online payment service to reset her password which may have been the first sign that her identity had been hacked. The new fraud warning comes during Scams Awareness Fortnight, which highlights the danger of all types of frauds and cons to the public.
Citizens Advice Help to Claim caseworker, Peter Carey, said: “If you are a benefit claimant and you spot any unusual activity connected to your bank account or credit score, contact the bank and the offices paying your benefits and or tax credits and let them know your concerns. The numbers to call are on all the letters from benefits and tax credits.”
Peter added: “We are working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to resolve these problems when they occur and stop them happening in the first place, but we’d like to remind people to keep private information secure – especially National Insurance numbers – and be extra vigilant for signs that their private information has been hacked.”
There are four important things that people can do if they suspect they’re the target of a scam:
- If payment or banking details are involved in the scam the person’s first step should be to contact their bank or credit card company. If the scam is a pension transfer, they need to contact the provider immediately, along with the Pensions Advisory Service.
- Get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133, or on 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh-speaking adviser. You can also get advice and information online at citizensadvice.org.uk/sa20. The Citizens Advice consumer service can also report problems to Trading Standards for you. Trading Standards are responsible for protecting consumers and the community against rogue and unfair traders.
- Report scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime.
- Tell family, friends, neighbours so that they can avoid scams and find out how to protect themselves.