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Saturday, 25 April 2009

UK Benefit Thieves in Spain - Beware!

It is good news that the Department for Work and Pensions has decided to extended its benefit cheats hotline to cover the Costa del Sol and Canary Islands. It was first launched in Alicante as a pilot scheme on 25 September 2008 and now covers two other popular UK Ex-pat destinations.

The Spanish benefit fraud hotline number is 900 554 440. It is free and confidential and operates from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday

To support this extension of the hotline 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 at which provides more detail on what constitutes benefit fraud along with an on line reporting form.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.

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.”

Unfortunately from my experience talking with numerous residents and visitors there is a reluctance on the part of many of the law-abiding UK ex-pats here in Spain to use the hotline to report suspected parasitic benefit thieves because it is not thought of as the 'done thing',and besides it is seen as 'cheating' rather than what it is, theft. I have no problem with using the hotline, a thief is a thief.

What also has to be taken into consideration is that generally these same thieves are working as part of the black economy in Spain and more often or not are driving around in old UK registered vehicles that are illegal, without insurance, road tax or MOT certificate (they probably didn't have these when the vehicle was in the UK).

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