Thousands of British expats are the target of benefit fraud investigations, according to new figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Nearly 7,300 expats are illegally claiming welfare benefits to top up their incomes, says the DWP.
A team of investigators is already working on detecting benefit fraudsters in Spain – and another team is on the way to Cyprus.
The total amount of cash going out to bogus claimants is estimated at £82 million a year.
This breaks down as £52 million of scam pension claims, £19 million of false housing benefit and more than £10 million of fraudulent income support payments.
Top 10 benefit fraud hot spots
The DWP has revealed the extent of the benefit fraud with a list of figures showing the top 10 benefit fraud hot spots:
- Spain is top with 769 detected cases
- Pakistan is second with 628 cases
- Turkey had 298 cases
- India – 282 cases
- The USA – 246 cases
- France – 213 cases
- Bangladesh – 180 cases
- Thailand – 172 cases
- Austria – 130 cases
- Cyprus – 126 cases
Benefit fraud is not limited to a handful of countries – the DWP is investigating cases in 157 nations.
In Spain, the most popular destination for British expats, William Bruce, 54 and Berwyn Jones, 50, pocketed £140,000 from falsely claiming benefits. Each asked for benefits after telling the DWP they were living alone in Newport, Gwent.
Instead, they lived an extravagant expat lifestyle on their ill-gotten gains.
Earlier this year, both were jailed for four months and ordered to repay the cash.
Overseas claims crack down
In a separate case, expat Karen Trant, 51, banked £134,000 by telling benefit officers she was agoraphobic and could not leave her home in Devon.
While lying about her medical condition, she bought a holiday home in Goa, India, and spent thousands on cosmetic surgery while overseas. She was filmed sun bathing and horse riding.
In July, she was sentenced to 27 months in jail at Plymouth Crown Court for making fraudulent benefit claims.
Welfare minister Mark Harper said: “Benefit cheats need to know that even if they leave the country we have the resources and connections with foreign governments to bring them to book.
“Living overseas at the taxpayer’s expense is no longer an option and we are working hard to bring anyone making fraudulent benefit claimants to book.”