Identities of parents of disabled children are being stolen to gain Universal Credit payments during the Coronavirus crisis.
Huge demand for the benefit has seen some processes relaxed to ensure the majority of claims are paid quickly. This has resulted in criminals being paid after fraudulent claims.
Now Derby-based charity Disability Direct has revealed that two of its clients had their identities stolen by thieves who took payments in their names.
Both victims discovered the crime when their Tax Credits, awarded to enable them to provide care for their children, were stopped.
Only after weeks of turmoil when they were left missing hundreds of pounds were the payments reinstated.
Sally Meer, of Stockbrook in Derby, said: “It is ironic that I worked the Department of Work and Pensions until 2015 when I had a little boy, Harry, with Down’s Syndrome and had to leave my job to look after him.
“I had a letter on May 22 from the HMRC saying our tax credits were being stopped because we had made a Universal Credit claim. I rang up to say I had made no such claim and I was told to contact the police.
“Because I used to work there, I contacted a former colleague to see what was going on and they discovered someone had made the claim in my partner’s name.
“I was also told that we were victims of a national scam and that Universal Credit payments of up to £2,000 are going out without proper checks.
“I receive £500 a month in tax credits for Harry and was on the verge of taking him out of nursery because we could no longer afford it when they were stopped. I even thought that we might lose our house because this is half our monthly money.
“I was very worried for weeks but, thankfully, have now been told my tax credits are being reinstated.
“However, I can’t believe it was so easy for someone to apply in my partner’s name and be given money straightaway without the usual stringent checks.”
Another Derby victim who wished to remain anonymous said he also discovered about his identity being stolen when tax credits for his seriously ill daughter were stopped.
He said: “I received a letter to say the tax credit of £600 a month had been terminated – I was later informed it was because I had applied to Universal Credit but I had no knowledge about that.”
The man has a baby daughter who has Edward’s syndrome, also known as trisomy 18. Only 13 in 100 infants with the syndrome, which causes respiratory problems, live past their first birthday.
He added: “I wasn’t working because of the COVID crisis and my daughter’s first birthday was coming up and this was a big milestone for us.
“This burden of having our tax credits stopped was extremely stressful at an already difficult time.It really wound me up. We are working-class people who are just trying to do our best.
“I can’t believe Universal Credit didn’t do proper checks and yet when I called them I failed security because I said I was born in Derby and something else had been written down by the conman applicant in my name.”
Sally Austin, Disability Direct’s Director of Operations, said: “It seems wrong that HMRC which handles Tax Credits does not have the same information as the DWP which deals with Universal Credit.
“If there were a cross-referencing system, it would prevent this kind of fraud.
“These are just two people who have happened to contact us. It is disgusting how criminals are preying on those who most need the money.
“The crime will also have a lifelong psychological effect because they will be forever scared that someone will use their identity again.”