Committing benefit fraud

What is benefit fraud?

Deliberately failing to report a change in your circumstances or being dishonest about information regarding your benefit claim is considered benefit fraud.

What different types of benefit fraud are there?

A benefit claimant commits fraud by failing to give the following information:

  • their correct household income;
  • their correct savings or capital;
  • that a partner or other adults live with them;
  • that they own other property or land;
  • a change of their domicile address.

Fraud may also be committed by:

  • pretending to rent a property, but actually owning it;
  • pretending to pay more rent than in reality;
  • a landlord not declaring that tenants have moved out, still accepting their benefit payments;
  • requesting an employer sign a form declaring the claimant earn less than they actually do.

What are the penalties?

Penalties for benefit fraud include:

  • loss of benefits for up to three years;
  • repayment of overpaid benefit;
  • prosecution;
  • a criminal record;
  • an administrative penalty of between £350 and £5,000 (where you are fined but avoid a criminal record);
  • possible prison sentence.

Sanctionable benefits

Benefits that can be reduced or withdrawn are called ‘sanctionable’, and include:

  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Industrial Death Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Reduced Earnings Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Retirement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Unemployability Supplement
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Housing/Council Tax Benefit
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • War Disablement Pension
  • War Widow’s Pension
  • War Pension Unemployability Supplement
  • War Pension Allowance for Lower Standard of Occupation
  • Widowed Mother’s/Parent’s Allowance
  • Widow’s Pension/Bereavement Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit

Benefits that can’t be reduced or stopped

The following benefits can’t be reduced or stopped if you commit benefit fraud:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Bereavement Payment
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Christmas Bonus
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Graduated Retirement Benefit
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Constant Attendance Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Industrial Injuries Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • State Pension
  • Social Fund Payments
  • War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance
  • War Pension Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

If you commit fraud on a benefit that can’t be reduced or stopped, your other benefits can be reduced instead.


If you commit benefit fraud and you’re on any of the following benefits, none of your benefits can be stopped or reduced:

  • Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme (2008)
  • Health in Pregnancy Grant
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Pneumoconiosis (Workers’ Compensation) 1979
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay

Time limits for investigating benefit fraud

There is no time limit for recovering a benefit overpayment – you could be investigated several years after the alleged fraud took place. There is, however, a six-year time limit for taking court action to recover the overpayment.

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For more information on:

  • Appealing against a benefit fraud decision
  • How to appeal
  • Reporting benefit fraud
  • What information do you need to provide when reporting fraud?
  • What happens after someone is reported?
  • How benefit claims are checked for benefit fraud
  • What if there is a problem with a claim?
  • What if you’re suspected of benefit fraud?
  • Personal information and your rights