British residents urged to report benefit thieves

The British Government has launched a hotline in a bid to track down British benefit fraudsters living in Portugal.

The move is aimed at catching expats claiming benefits they are not entitled to.

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, said: “Fraud abroad cost the taxpayer around £66 million last year. This money should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves in places like Portugal. We are determined to stop benefit thieves stealing from the British taxpayer.

“We are reforming the benefits system to make it less open to abuse and extending our reach further across Europe.”

Fraud abroad 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.

The Portugal phone line is an extension of a successful hotline in Spain, which opened in September 2008 to cover the Alicante region and was extended into other areas covering Malaga, the Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands in March 2009.

Residents can report suspected British benefit thieves to a free-phone local number, 800 208 638 or online at www.dwp.gov.uk/benefit-thieves-portugal.

Their concerns will be passed on to a team of investigators in the UK.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office estimate there are around 30,000 expats in Portugal and approximately 8,000 DWP customers in Portugal.

The Portuguese benefit fraud hotline is free and confidential and operates from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

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