We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Frank Zola please sign in and let everyone know.

DWP 'spys' on 20 million individual's social media accounts, just because they are claiming Universal Credit and other social security benefits?

We're waiting for Frank Zola to read a recent response and update the status.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Can you advise whether you have provided any information and materials on the topics and headline in items [1], [2] & [3] below, posted on various websites?

Concerning items referring to benefit claimants social media accounts and DWP investigations of fraud allegations, like:

"DWP: Warning to people on Universal Credit or benefits who use social media
Anyone receiving benefits from the DWP could be investigated at any time"

from DWP sections such as it's press or media relations/enquiries office's.

Noting that item [1] is prefaced with:

"DWP:"

suggesting it is based upon information recently provided by the DWP?

Please disclose a copy of the information and materials you may have provided that could have been used to support the writing of these [1], [2] & [3] items below and headlines over the past 6 weeks to date:

[1] DWP: Warning to people on Universal Credit or benefits who use social media
Anyone receiving benefits from the DWP could be investigated at any time
https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teess...

[2] Warning issued to anyone on benefits or Universal Credit with social media accounts
Anyone who receives benefits or Universal Credit and uses Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can be affected
https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/...

[3] 20 million benefits or Universal Credit claimants hit by warning over their social media accounts
Welfare claims including Universal Credit are managed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/mi...

[4] Universal Credit: Spying on social media and covert surveillance used to investigate suspect benefit claims
https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/uk-...

Please also disclose the information you hold concerning the DWP investigating claimant's social media accounts, including claimant's account personal data that is in the public domain and personal data that is private [not made public] and details of the processes the DWP follows when it seeks to access private personal data from facebook, twitter and instagram for account holders [natural persons] who are [A] subject to a benefit fraud investigation [B] subject to a criminal prosecution for benefit fraud.

Full text example of a website item on the DWP and social media:

DWP: Warning to people on Universal Credit or benefits who use social media
Anyone receiving benefits from the DWP could be investigated at any time

ByRachel Pugh Money-Saving & Shopping Editor Anna Twizell Community Reporter Linda Howard
10:42, 7 APR 2021

People on Universal Credit or benefits could have their bank accounts and social media monitored at any time, it has been reported.

It is estimated that over 20 million people in the UK currently claim benefits, with this figure continuing to rise as the covid-19 pandemic progresses.

Under the Social Security Administration Act, not everyone will be aware that authorities have the power to collect information on claimants.

The DWP steps in to investigate when it believes there is reason someone may be defrauding, or trying to defraud the system.

And while not all ‘frauds’ are deliberate - not reporting circumstantial changes such as switching bank accounts or moving addresses could outwardly appear innocent - but it would signify something else to investigators.

The DWP defines benefit fraud as: “Someone obtains state benefit they are not entitled to or deliberately fails to report a change in their personal circumstances.”

Receiving unemployment benefits while working is the most common form of benefit fraud, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Another is when people receiving benefits claim they live alone, but are actually financially supported by a partner or spouse.

Failing to inform the state about a 'change of circumstances', for example, that your partner is now living with you, or that you have moved house, or that a relative has died and left you some money may also be classed as fraud by omission.

Being accused of fraud by the DWP can be stressful enough, but the thought of being investigated by officials without really knowing why can lead to excessive worry.

Many investigators wear plain clothes and can show up at your home or work at any time, which could be frightening.

But having some knowledge about DWP investigations can make all the difference, enabling you to live your life as normally as possible while an investigation is underway.

Usually, benefits-related fraud occurs where someone has claimed benefits to which they were not entitled on purpose.

Common examples of benefits fraud

Faking an illness or injury to get unemployment or disability benefits

Failing to report income from a business or employment to make income seem lower than it actually is

Living with someone who contributes to the household income without declaring that income to the authorities

Falsifying accounts to make it seem like a person has less money than they say they do

In each circumstance, the DWP will need evidence that shows that someone is receiving a benefit that they would not ordinarily be entitled to.

Fraud investigators have a wide range of powers that enables them to gather evidence in a number of ways, including surveillance, interviews, and document tracing.

Unfortunately, you won’t know the exact details of an investigation against you until you are told about it afterwards - which may be in court if you are charged with an offence.

While the DWP does act on reports from the public, it also has its own sophisticated means of detecting when fraudulent activity might be taking place.

Which means anyone receiving benefits from the DWP could be investigated at any time.

However, if the DWP is going to start a formal investigation against you, they will notify you either in writing, by telephone, or email - this is typically done through the post.

When you are notified, you will also be told whether you are to receive a visit from a Fraud Investigation Officer (FIO), or whether they require you to attend an interview.

In the early stages of an investigation, you may not be told that one is under way until the DWP has assessed whether there is good reason to formally investigate a potential case of fraud.

Many tip-offs and reports turn out to be false, so the DWP wants to make sure that they do not waste their time on a pointless investigation.

As soon as there is enough evidence of potential fraud, the DWP will launch an official investigation and notify you.

DWP investigators are allowed to gather many types of evidence against a potentially fraudulent claimant.

Most common types of evidence

Inspector reports from surveillance activities

Photographs or videos

Audio recordings

Correspondence

Financial data, including bank statements

Interviews with you or people you know

Any evidence submitted by those who reported you

One common form of benefit fraud is falsely reporting income, or failure to report it altogether.

If you’re claiming unemployment benefits but are seen to attend a workplace, the DWP may talk to the owner or manager of that business to find out exactly why you are there, what work you are doing and how much you are being paid.

Investigators may also check your social media accounts and search your online profiles for pictures, location check-ins, and other evidence which may or may not be useful to them.

Those who use social media a lot will leave a trail of their life and habits, often allowing investigators to piece together a picture of what that person’s life actually looks like.

If this is not consistent with the details of that person’s claim for benefits, that evidence may end up being used against them

What if I am falsely reported to the DWP?

False reports of benefit fraud are common in the UK, with some studies indicating there are around 140,000 made each year.

Until the DWP determines that there is no case against you, there is little you can do. Co-operate as best as you can and remember that those found to have reported falsely through malicious reasons may end up being prosecuted.

If you are concerned about a current or future DWP investigation against you or someone you care about, seeking advice from a legal expert could help.
https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teess...

Yours faithfully,

Frank Zola

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been accepted by the DWP FOI mailbox.
 
If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally expect
a response within 20 working days.
 
However please be advised that due to the current situation with COVID-19
we cannot guarantee a response within this timescale.
 
Every effort is being made to respond to FOIs as we would usually but the
current situation means that available Departmental resources will be
needed on other high priority areas.
 
We kindly ask for your understanding during this unprecedented situation
and we will aim to deal with your FOI request as soon as is practically
possible.
 
Email FOI responses will be issued from [1][email address]
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk mail.  
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
please contact us.
 
[2]http://www.gov.uk/dwp
 
 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.gov.uk/dwp

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

To add to my request, I note that this item [4]:
https://www.mylondon.news/news/uk-world-...

says:

"The DWP has issued the deterrent in response to fraudsters making false claims to receive payments"

which further suggests these social media and benefits items are based upon and informed by information provided by the DWP, a copy of which I have requested.

Yours faithfully,

Frank Zola

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been accepted by the DWP FOI mailbox.
 
If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally expect
a response within 20 working days.
 
However please be advised that due to the current situation with COVID-19
we cannot guarantee a response within this timescale.
 
Every effort is being made to respond to FOIs as we would usually but the
current situation means that available Departmental resources will be
needed on other high priority areas.
 
We kindly ask for your understanding during this unprecedented situation
and we will aim to deal with your FOI request as soon as is practically
possible.
 
Email FOI responses will be issued from [1][email address]
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk mail.  
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
please contact us.
 
[2]http://www.gov.uk/dwp
 
 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.gov.uk/dwp

Frank Zola left an annotation ()

Formal complaints have been lodged with the websites and authors that are propagating these similar items, with relevant regulators and the DWP as appropriate. On the basis they lack accuracy and are knowingly misleading and the items are not identifying they are based upon information from the DWP and it being represented uncritically.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

RE: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/d...

To help with my information request below is an archive of each item. I note they all appear to have been syndicated through Reach Plc ( Trinity Mirror) and some of which refer to Rachel Pugh Money-Saving & Shopping Editor and other content editors.

Archive copy of items cited

https://web.archive.org/web/202104071649...
https://web.archive.org/web/202104071651...
https://web.archive.org/web/202104071653...
https://web.archive.org/web/202104071654...
https://web.archive.org/web/202104071655...

Yours faithfully,

Frank Zola

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been accepted by the DWP FOI mailbox.
 
If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally expect
a response within 20 working days.
 
However please be advised that due to the current situation with COVID-19
we cannot guarantee a response within this timescale.
 
Every effort is being made to respond to FOIs as we would usually but the
current situation means that available Departmental resources will be
needed on other high priority areas.
 
We kindly ask for your understanding during this unprecedented situation
and we will aim to deal with your FOI request as soon as is practically
possible.
 
Email FOI responses will be issued from [1][email address]
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk mail.  
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
please contact us.
 
[2]http://www.gov.uk/dwp
 
 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.gov.uk/dwp

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Frank Zola please sign in and let everyone know.