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UK Benefit Cheats Abroad Sought

Source: The Press Association - Mon 27th Dec 2010

The UK Government is tightening the noose on benefit cheats who make claims on the UK unfairly whilst living abroad.

Benefit fraud committed by expatriates is believed to have cost UK taxpayers around £66 million last year, with fraud ranging from expats failing to tell the appropriate benefits agencies that they have moved abroad, to continuing to claim benefits for relatives who have died.

In other cases, cheats have claimed benefits while working abroad, have exaggerated disabilities or have failed to report assets, including savings, property and in some cases even yachts.

In an attempt crackdown on the problem, fraud officials in the UK are joining forces with overseas organisations, such as land registries, as well as the Foreign Office and UK banks to target Britons in countries where the highest level of fraud takes place.

Such benefit fraud hotspots have traditionally included Spain, Portugal and the US, but cases have also been found in countries such as Thailand and Sweden.

Lord Freud, the UK's Minister for Welfare reform commented: "Abroad fraud cost the taxpayer around £66 million last year. This money should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves overseas.

"We are determined to stop benefit thieves stealing from the British taxpayer and recently launched our hotline in Portugal to make it even easier to report benefit crime."

Angela Walker, formerly of Birmingham but now living in Granada in Spain, was recently charged with benefit fraud after being reported through a hotline in Spain.

Ms Walker had claimed more than £10,000 of income support and child tax credits since 2006, despite the fact that she was living with a partner in Spain.

Last month she was ordered by a court to repay the benefits she had claimed, and £100 of costs. Additionally, she was sentenced to a 12-month Community Order and will have to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

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