Halton Borough Trading Standards is warning residents to be vigilant following an increase in the North West of fraudsters offering ‘low cost Government loans.’
The scammers visit the victim in their home claiming to be from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
They then persuade the individual to apply for the ‘loan’ and agree to complete the application for them.
The victim’s personal details are then used to make a claim for Universal Credit and to request an ‘Advance Payment’ (the loan).
This is part of the Universal Credit award that can be received quickly – it can be up to 100 per cent of the value of the Universal Credit claim.
The fraudster then takes a ‘cut’ of the Advance Payment. Which in some cases has been paid in cash by the victim, immediately to the scammer, as payment for the ‘service.’
The scammer then has the victim’s personal details, making them vulnerable to further fraud.
At this point the individuals don’t realise their current benefits will stop and will be replaced by Universal Credit and also they will have to pay back the ‘loan’ (advance payment) in full from their future Universal Credit payments.
Furthermore, they will not be able to return to their original benefits.
Halton Borough Council’s Executive Board Member for Trading Standards, Cllr Dave Cargill, said: “In some cases, the fraudsters are misclaiming on behalf of the victim in order to maximise the potential Universal Credit payment (and therefore the Advance Payment).
“This means that the victim has an even higher amount to repay from their Universal Credit payments. “
Halton residents are encouraged to follow the advice below to help prevent them being scammed:
• Never give money to someone who calls unannounced at your home, out in public or who contacts you by phone, letter or email. Criminal gangs target people for their personal information.
• Never share personal information with anyone, even if they claim to be an official. Always ask for ID and check this, ideally using contact details you find yourself. A genuine official will always understand your concerns.
• Always ask for identification and contact the company they claim to represent, if possible using a telephone number you find yourself.
• ‘Low cost Government loans’ do not exist – if you have been on benefits for longer than 6 months you could apply for a Budgeting Loan (Budgeting Advance in Universal Credit).
Free advice and support on applying for Universal Credit is available for Halton residents via Citizens Advice Halton – call 0800 144 8444 for telephone advice or visit the website for useful information or office locations.
If you or somebody you know has been caught out by a fraud please contact one of our specialist officers, Linda or Sue on 0151 511 8785 or 0151 511 8775, who are already working with people in Halton who have lost thousands of pounds to scams.
If you need advice on anything else please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline or 03454 04 05 06