The Department for Work and Pensions is going to be looking at bank and social media accounts as part of a crackdown on benefit fraud.
Currently, there are 23m people on DWP pay-outs - 12.4m of whom claim state pension and almost 6m of whom claim Universal Credit.
There are also 2.9m people claiming housing benefit, 2.7m on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and 1.8m people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
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However, during the pandemic, fraud and error in the UK benefits system reached record levels, with a reported £8.4b overpaid in the last financial year.
The DWP estimates that 3.9% of benefits spending was overpaid during 2020/21, with £6.3b of the overpayments believed to be due to fraud, primarily arising from Universal Credit claims, The Mirror reports.
Universal Credit director-general Neil Couling stated that the DWP's fraud and error probe could see thousands of claimants approached over the coming months.
Investigators can turn up at your home or workplace at any time in plain clothes if they suspect foul play.
They also use a range of powers to gather evidence such as surveillance, document tracing, interviews, checking your bank accounts and monitoring your social media.
The DWP said: "In simple terms an overpayment is benefit that the claimant has received but is not entitled to.
"Overpayments of benefit can occur in a number of ways. In the main they are due to claimant, system or official error."
The DWP has outlined seven types of overpayments it looks for:
In each of those cases, the DWP can make efforts to get the money back under Social Security legislation.
You may be taken to court where a fine of up to £5,000 can be imposed. A person's benefits can be cut for up to three years if they are convicted of benefit fraud.
A DWP spokesman said: "We take any abuse of taxpayers' money very seriously and those who claim benefits they are not entitled to will face criminal prosecution.
"We also have robust plans in place to recover fraudulent claims and drive fraud and error down to the lowest feasible level."
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