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Plymouthians among victims of latest Universal Credit scam over social media

sophie vickery

From BBC News, July 11th 2019

Fraudsters are using social media to promote a scam exploiting loopholes in the welfare benefit Universal Credit.

BBC News has found Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat pages plugging the scam, which can leave victims owing hundreds.

Separately, the BBC has been told that the homeless, drug users and even jobless young Britons in Spain are also becoming victims.

Ministers say they are working with social media sites to shut down accounts that promote fraud.

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “We do not allow fraudulent activity.”

On Monday BBC News revealed that tens of millions of pounds are feared to have been stolen by fraudsters, exploiting a loophole in universal credit.

While many of those scammed have been approached directly, sometimes by people claiming to be from the job centre, we have now discovered a number of social media sites are promoting the scam.

On Facebook, the pages include Gov Grants Same Day, Same Day Grant, Discretionary Budgeting Grant and Same Day Grant Payment. Instagram sites include Same Day Drop UK, while Moneyinaminute is also advertising the fraud on Snapchat.

Some of the sites have been operating for months, with dozens of people contacting the fraudsters asking for details on how to get the “grants” or “free money” they are offering.

Healthcare assistant Sophie Vickery, from Plymouth (pictured), says she was encouraged to apply for one of the “grants” after reading Facebook comments from people who had apparently already done it and were happy.

Sophie was initially cautious, but the people running the page assured her that she had nothing to lose if she went ahead.

She even asked if it was a loan and not a grant “and they said ‘No. It’s a government grant. You don’t have to pay it back’.”

When she eventually decided to go ahead she received the money within two hours.

“I got £1,200 and kept £600 and transferred the other £600 to them,” she said.

She had been on tax credits but found herself moved on to universal credit, which she fears will make her worse off.

“I didn’t really think much of it. It wasn’t until the next day when I went to view my tax credits, I knew something was really wrong.”

It quickly became clear that the person who had made the claim on her behalf had invented email addresses, given false answers to security questions and said she had five children, when she only has two.

She has made a fraud claim, but feels frightened and ashamed and fears she will have to pay back all the money.

“It was like I had fallen into a big black hole and I didn’t know how to get out.”

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