A staggering 1,400 benefit claimants have been interviewed under caution after potentially falling victim to a Universal Credit scam.

DWP officials admitted the figure today at a fractious hearing examining a fraud suspected of ensnaring thousands of innocent claimants.

The BBC revealed fraudsters have approaDWO ched struggling families and offered to get them cash from the Department for Work and Pensions.

They split the money, but claimants then discover it is only an “advance payment” loan – which has to be paid back to the DWP in full over 12 months. 

But despite claims that many cases involve innocent victims, officials say more than 1,400 benefit claimants have been interviewed.

Emma Haddad, the DWP’s Director General for Service Excellence, said: “So far we have interviewed around 1,400 under caution.

“There will have been other interviews which are called compliance interviews which are slightly different.”

The admission came during a hearing before MPs today at the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

Labour MP Ruth George was shocked by the practice of interviewing people who could potentially be innocent victims under caution.

She said: “Do you feel an interview under caution is appropriate?

“Some of the very vulnerable victims… are absolutely terrified.”

Ms George said letters sent to people caught up in fraud are “extremely scary”.

The Labour MP added: “They say to people if you ignore the letter… they could end up being prosecuted and they could end up in jail.

“This is why people are so scared.”

Officials did not make clear at the hearing whether the 1,400 cases involved only the scam uncovered by the BBC, or also included other fraud cases in which claimants were responsible.

In theory, some could involve deliberate fraudsters who are rightly being pursued for wrongly claiming from the benefit system.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd insisted the interviews are “not supposed to be confrontational” and people do not always need a legal representative.

She said: “They’re supposed to be how can we help this person who has been scammed in some way.

“Do they need signposting to somewhere that can actually help them?”

Victims of the Universal Credit fraud will have to pay back some of the money involved.

DWP officials said earlier this month:

  • If you were paid the full advance into your bank account through fraud and kept it all, you will need to pay the full amount back.
  • If you were paid the full advance into your bank account through fraud and the scammer took a cut, you will need to pay back the portion you kept.


  • If the scammer was paid the full advance into a bank account and gave you a cut, you will need to pay the cut back.