INVESTIGATORS cracking down on benefit cheats are making a plea for your help.
The council team tackling illegal claims in Calderdale has clawed back a massive £1.6m in overpaid benefits in the last 18 months.
In that time they have secured prosecutions against 40 people and cautions or fines for a further 180.
But they say they need the public to keep letting them know of people who are abusing the system.
Councillor Pauline Nash, the council’s cabinet member for Safer and Stronger Communities, said the money that cheats scammed was public cash.
She said: “Benefit fraud is a really serious crime, often involving significant sums of money,” she said.
“It’s money which is being taken out of the system and which should instead be used to support those people who are in genuine need.
“It’s important that people know that the council follows up all information it receives about suspected benefit fraud and we urge people with information to get in contact with us.”
Since last April, the council has carried out 1,800 investigations into allegations of benefit fraud.
Their powers include access to people’s financial records and the ability to seize assets such as property under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
On top of any punishments dished out by the courts, culprits are always made to pay the money they have received back.
There is a dedicated hotline that people can use to report their suspicions - 0800 1697451.
Information can be passed on anonymously, but officers ask that it be as detailed as possible.
The investigators’ recent successes include the prosecution of a woman from Halifax who had scammed £33,000 worth of benefits that she was not entitled to.
She received a four-month suspended prison sentence and 100 hours of unpaid work.
Another Halifax woman received a 16-week suspended prison sentence after admitting illegally obtaining £14,500 in benefit cash.
Benefit fraud can be reported via the hotline or online at www.calderdale.gov.uk/advice/benefits/fraud.