‘I was working a normal retail job when I started getting regular letters. One said you have to pay x amount to the government. I didn’t take any notice of it because I know that a lot of spam letters get sent out. And then a few months later, I received another letter. I thought, okay, let’s see if this is legit. So I called up the DWP, and they weren’t helpful at all. They basically just wanted me to pay the money which was £1,000 plus. I work in retail so how was I supposed to pay that?
‘I received Universal Credit back when I finished uni so I called them up and they said they had nothing on file so they would investigate the situation. I left it a couple of weeks but heard nothing back and the DWP was still asking for money. I was calling my parents, saying I haven’t got that sort of money. At the minute I’m not making much money. I’ve only got money to pay my rent and bills. London living costs are super expensive, and everything was going up with the cost of living crisis. I knew that my rent was going up and I was thinking where am I going to get this money from? I was really stressed out.
‘I tried to think how the situation could have happened in the first place and I think someone must have hacked my details online, but the DWP just wanted to get the money back and made me feel that I was the one who had been fraudulent.
‘I started researching other cases that had happened and I came across the Law Centre. There was a case study which related exactly to mine, which had been resolved so I got in contact.
‘Everyone I spoke to was amazing at helping me. Lana, my caseworker, was really caring. She talked me through different solutions for how to stop the regular money going out from each wage slip and took me through a financial check looking at all my incomings and expenditure. She sent out emails for me and made sure she had all the information she needed from me before the deadlines. She even got the case suspended for a bit when I needed more time. And then eventually the complaints team at DWP got back to me, told me I didn’t have to pay the debt and gave me a goodwill gift of £100. I felt so relieved.
Krish* was contacted by the DWP saying he owed them £1,481.43. We identified that he had been a victim of universal credit advanced payment fraud and advised him to agree to pay a nominal amount whilst we acted on his behalf to get the recovery action stopped. Following our intervention, the DWP stopped all action against Krish, confirmed he did not owe them anything and reimbursed him the money already paid together with a goodwill payment for the distress and inconvenience caused.
*not his real name