What happens if I am found to have committed fraud?
The maximum penalty if you are convicted for false representation is a £5,000 fine, three months imprisonment or both.
The maximum penalty if convicted for dishonest representation is a £5,000 fine, six months imprisonment (12 months in Scotland) or both.
If you are convicted in a higher court you can receive an unlimited fine or seven years in prison or both.
Prosecution must begin within three months of the date from which there was sufficient evidence to prosecute or twelve months from the date of your offence, whichever is later.
You may be invited to pay a civil penalty as an alternative to prosecution or the proceedings may be dropped. You should seek advice before agreeing to pay any penalty as alternative to prosecution.
If you are faced with prosecution, you should seek legal advice as a matter of urgency.
If the act which led to the fraud investigation also resulted in a recoverable overpayment, the overpayment is still recoverable from you even after you serve a prison sentence or pay a fine.
Make sure any possible benefit appeal about the accuracy of an overpayment or its recoverability has been made and heard before any prosecution action begins.