|DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS News Release (Drc-130)
The Department for Work and Pensions has extended its successful benefit cheats hotline to the Costa del Sol and Canary Islands following its launch in Alicante in September 2008.
Residents in these popular ex-pat areas can report suspected British benefit thieves to a local number and their concerns will be passed on by the operator of the hotline to a team of investigators in the UK.
Employment and Welfare Reform Minister Tony McNulty said:
"We are absolutely determined to stop benefit thieves stealing from the British taxpayer. Our commitment extends beyond the borders of the UK. Even in sunny Spain, we're closing in on benefit fraud."
A publicity campaign, 'We're closing in', in the local ex-pat media is raising awareness of the hotline as well as a dedicated web site where suspected British benefit thieves living abroad can be reported on-line.
The total cost of benefit fraud committed by UK benefit recipients living in or travelling to countries abroad is an estimated £63 million a year. It involves a range of scams such as people on means-tested benefits going abroad but failing to declare their absence, and individuals working while claiming sickness benefits.
This initiative is part of a growing relationship between Spain and the UK on social security issues that already includes agreements to data-match and share death notifications.
The Spanish benefit fraud hotline number is 900 554 440. It is free and confidential and operates from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. The hotline is run and funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
The dedicated web site address is www.dwp.gov.uk/benefit-thieves-spain and provides more detail on what constitutes benefit fraud along with an on line reporting form.