Monday, Jul 28th

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Legal Guide UK

Common reasons why points based visa applications are refused

A summary of common problems encountered by Applicants and the consequences when refused a visa

The Home Office receive thousands of applications every week and often have to deal with applications submitted by individuals who have chosen not to use lawyers to help them with their case.

There is no requirement for an individual to instruct a lawyer to help them apply for a visa, but generally it is a good idea to obtain legal assistance so as to ensure the visa application is correctly completed and the immigration rules have been properly complied. This ultimately increases the chances of obtaining the required visa.

For even the most experienced of lawyers, the ever-evolving immigration rules and laws can cause complexities when representing clients. The points based system introduced in 2008 has seen frequent re-drafting of Home Office guidance notes and polices and challenges made by lawyers who have found the Tier points based system unfair and difficult to satisfy for many Applicants.

Many Applicants have found themselves “caught out” by their not abiding by a certain paragraph in the guidance notes-many guidance notes in fact resemble more a text book in their own right as they can be up to 50 pages in length!

Unfortunately, the points based system has shown many pitfalls for Applicants and refusals have been quick to come and plenty. The following is a summary of common problems encountered by Applicants and the consequences when refused a visa, when making a Tier visa application.

IMMIGRATION ISSUE

1. Maintenance- An Applicant falls  below £800.00 during the last 3 months from the date of application (even by a few pence)

CONSEQUENCES

Refusal of Tier application under the basis that the Applicant has failed to maintain the required amount throughout the three month relevant period. However, if the decision is appealed it may be successfully argued that an individual can maintain themselves if they can show that in any other accounts they had funds throughout the relevant three month period before the time of the application. Legal advice should be sought in such an instance.

IMMIGRATION ISSUE

2. A Tier application submitted out of time i.e.: after a person’s visa has expired.

CONSEQUENCES

Generally the application will be refused as the Tier system requires Applicants to have valid leave at the time of applying for a Tier visa. Also, where an application is submitted out of time, there will be NO right of appeal against the refusal decision. The Applicant must consider returning to their home country to re-apply for entry clearance as a Tier migrant since overstaying a refusal decision for more than 28 days would cause them to be banned from returning or unsuccessfully making an application to remain in the UK for a minimum 1 year period.

IMMIGRATION ISSUE

3. Incomplete or incorrectly drafted applications.

CONSEQUENCES

Likely to be returned by the Home Office to the Applicant requesting that the Applicant correctly complete the application with any additional supporting documents. However, if the application is returned by the Home Office to the Applicant AFTER their visa has expired, then the Applicant should not re-apply as they will fall into 2) above. The Home Office do not take responsibility for delay and lateness in notifying Applicants of their decision.

IMMIGRATION ISSUE

4. Failure to provide supporting documents for the Tier application in strict adherence of the guidelines i.e.: Example: Internet bank statements not showing stamp of the bank.

CONSEQUENCES

Refusal of Tier application on the basis that the Applicant has failed to comply with the Tier guidance requirements.

IMMIGRATION ISSUE

5. Applicant has failed to include or erroneously provided information which is correct (even if this was a genuine error by the Applicant).

CONSEQUENCES

Paragraph 320 on refusal: the Applicant may be banned for up to 10 years from applying successfully for a visa or re-entering the UK on the basis of the Home Office alleging that the Applicant sought to use deception in an application. If an Applicant has a right of appeal, they can seek to appeal on the basis of making an “innocent mistake”.

The Green Paper which introduced the system, A points-based system: making migration work for Britain, stated: “Applicants will find the system simpler to understand and the rules for entry clearer and more consistently applied. It will be quicker and simpler for employers and educational institutions to bring in the migrants they need, and there will be more certainty about whether prospective migrants will be able to come to the UK. The public will better be able to understand who we are allowing into the UK and why, and have confidence that the system is not being abused. It will also be more straightforward for entry clearance officers and caseworkers to administer”.

In reality, however, the points based system can be criticised as being a “fall down system”.

Immigration lawyers have noted that the design of the points based system effectively seeks to prohibit individuals from accumulating 10 years continuous lawful residence to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
There are arguably too many clauses in the guidance notes that make it difficult for individuals to follow and abide by.

A recent challenge has been made by a leading Barrister by the name of Michael Fordham QC, who led the assault on the entire points based scheme (for all points based system applications) as being unlawful or “ultra vires”,  on the basis that the policy ‘guidance’ is unlawful, or at least cannot be law as it is not contained within the immigration rules.

It has been argued that the Home Office should use discretion in applying guidance and Immigration Officials must consider the underlying purpose of the guidance, not merely mindlessly apply its strict terms. It is expected that a decision will be released in the next few weeks on the matter. This could have a severe impact on the points based system overall.

To the untrained or unfamiliar eye, it may be best for individuals to obtain the advice of an experienced immigration solicitor in advance of making an application under the points based system so as to ensure that the lengthy Tier application form has been properly and thoroughly completed and so as to ensure that the documents the Applicant provides sufficiently and correctly support the Tier application, thereby giving the Applicant the highest chance of success.

By Raheela Hussain, Principal Solicitor of Greenfields Solicitors

Please note that the above article does not relate to nationals of the European Union. The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Greenfields Solicitors for a Consultation with a Solicitor on 020 8884 1l66.

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Using Human Rights Act 1998 to regularise your status in UK

The Human Rights Act 1998 gives further legal effect in the UK to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights not only impact matters of life and death, they also affect the rights you have in your everyday life: what you can say and do, your beliefs, your right to a fair trial and other similar basic entitlements.

Most rights have limits to ensure that they do not unfairly damage other people’s rights. However, certain rights – such as the right not to be tortured – can never be limited by a court or anybody else. You have the responsibility to respect other people’s rights, and they must respect yours.

Your human rights are:

- the right to life
- freedom from torture and degrading treatment
- freedom from slavery and forced labour
- the right to liberty
- the right to a fair trial
- the right not to be punished for something that wasn’t a crime when you did it
- the right to respect for private and family life
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom to express your beliefs
- freedom of expression
- freedom of assembly and association
- the right to marry and to start a family
- the right not to be discriminated against in respect of these rights and freedoms
- the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
- the right to an education
- the right to participate in free elections
- the right not to be subjected to the death penalty

If any of these rights and freedoms are breached, you have a right to an effective solution in law, even if the breach was by someone in authority, for example, a police officer.

Human Rights law plays an integral part in UK Immigration law. Human Rights law can be argued on its own merits in an Immigration law application. This article will focus on Article 8 of the ECHR 1998, which is commonly relied upon when arguing that refusing a person the right to stay in the UK or removing them from the UK, will constitute a breach of their human rights. This is what Article 8 states:

ARTICLE: 8 RIGHT TO RESPECT FOR PRIVATE AND FAMILY LIFE

1.  Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Case Examples

Example 1

Benjamin is a 24 year old Ghanaian man who has been convicted of Aggravated Burglary and is sentenced to two years imprisonment. He has no legal status in the UK as he entered illegally and overstayed. He has a 1 year old daughter with his British born girlfriend and no other family in the UK. He has been in the UK since the age of 17 and this is his first conviction. He was working as a Chef before he was arrested and was paying taxes and living with his British girlfriend and daughter, as a family. He has now been served with a deportation order to return to Ghana on completion of his sentence but he does not want to return as his girlfriend and daughter are in the UK and they cannot move abroad.

What can Benjamin do? Benjamin can raise arguments under Article 8 of the ECHR 1998, that not only would his human rights be affected under Article 8, but so would his girlfriend’s and their child’s if he was not granted legal status to reside in the UK. Benjamin can argue that he has been in the UK since he was a minor and that he may not have any family ties in Ghana but only in the UK, with his girlfriend and child.

Furthermore, as this was his first offence, it will be important to look at the Probation Officer’s report on whether they believe Benjamin will re-offend or not, and if there is a low likelihood of re-offending, then this will be a favourable factor in arguing against deportation, in that he can argue he has learnt the error of his way and his presence in the UK will be conducive to the public good as he will intend to work, pay tax contributions and live as a family man.

Example 2

A Jamaican woman by the name Loretta is an overstayer with a 5 year old son called Winston who was born in the UK, but he is not British. However, Loretta wants her son to grow up in the UK as he has spent his whole life here, and she has been in the UK for the past 8 years. The child has cousins, aunts and uncles and other family relatives from his father’s side, who do have permanent legal status in the UK. The woman wonders if she can get legal status for and her son.

What can be done: This case could seek to argue the human rights of Winston as he was born in the UK and has grown up in the UK, and this is the only lifestyle he knows. In December 2008, the “7 year concession” was removed from the UK- this was where families who had been in the UK with a child who had also been in the  country for more than 7 years could automatically apply for indefinite leave to remain.

The current law requires the Secretary of State to consider whether removing Winston (and his mother who would also make a claim to remain based on arguing that she has established a private and family life in the UK during her 8 years residence) would be a breach of Winston’s and Loretta’s article 8 human rights. The following questions must be asked by the Secretary of State when considering removal against a child:
a) Whether a child had formed a protected “private life” and whether removal would interfere with his private life
b) Whether the interference (by way of removal) was in accordance with the law
c) Whether the interference (by way of removal) was proportionate

Example 3

Clive has been in the UK for 7 years. He came to the UK on a student visa but was unable to complete his studies and stopped studying but did not return back to Kenya because he wanted to work and earn money as he had to help finance his family in Kenya. Clive has a girlfriend in the UK with a home. He wants to know if he can make an application to remain in the UK on the basis of his being in the UK for a lengthy period of time and his life with his girlfriend.

What can Clive do? Clive could consider making an application for Discretionary Leave  to remain in the UK and he would need to also argue his right to private life based on his lengthy residence in the UK. However, he would be limited in arguing his private life under article 8 as he has no family life in that he is not married to his girlfriend and has not been living with her. Clive should also consider that if the relationship is serious enough for both, and he and his girlfriend want to marry, then he can return to Kenya to marry his British girlfriend and then apply for a spouse visa from the British Embassy in Kenya to return to the UK. Though Clive has overstayed in the UK, the British Embassy will not necessarily refuse him a visa to join his spouse in the UK so long as he satisfies the other immigration criteria to successfully obtain a spouse visa.

Home Office’s current position

The Home Office are currently indicating a hard line approach. When assessing applications under Article 8, they will also consider whether there are any “exceptional, compassionate and compelling circumstances”. The Home Office will consider factors such as the length of time the person was married before the breakdown, the length of time the person has been resident in the UK, any children the person has and their legal status, the proportion of time spent abroad before entering the UK and whether there are any children of the marriage.

They will seek to decide whether a partner and any children can move aboard to the person’s home country if they are refused leave and if not, why not.

Applications made under Article 8 ECHR 1998 can be complex, lengthy and difficult. If you think you have a case worth putting forward under the basis of Article 8 ECHR 1998, you should seek immigration advice from specialist Immigration lawyers who can advise you fully on the pros/cons of putting forward such a case.

By Raheela Hussain, Principal Solicitor of Greenfields Solicitors

The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Greenfields Solicitors on 020 8884 1166 for a Consultation with a Solicitor.

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British Citizenship: can you claim to already be a British national?

How to confirm your nationality status

British nationality is defined by law. Not by heritage nor taxes nor long-term residence nor service in British forces during war.

Whether a person has a claim to British nationality can be determined by their date and place of birth and descent, according to British nationality laws.

This guide will help you understand whether you meet the requirements to claim you already are a British citizen, or whether you will need to apply for naturalisation.

Are you already a British citizen?

The most acceptable evidence of British citizenship is a British passport.

If you have a British passport issued on or after 1 January 1983, it will say whether you are a British citizen.

If you believe you have a claim to British nationality, but cannot apply for a British passport for lack of required documents, you will need to apply for ‘Confirmation of British nationality status’.

The requirements you will need to meet to claim British nationality are the following, according to your place of birth.

If you are born in the United Kingdom

As a general rule:

You are not a British citizen if you were born in the United Kingdom to parents who were not British citizens and were not legally settled here at the time of your birth.

This means you are not a British citizen if, at the time of your birth, your parents were in the country temporarily, had stayed on without permission, or had entered the country illegally and had not been given permission to stay in the UK indefinitely.

You are most certainly a British citizen if:

1) You were born in the United Kingdom before 1 January 1983.
The only exception is if you were born to certain diplomatic staff of foreign missions who had diplomatic immunity.

2) You were born in the United Kingdom on or after 1 January 1983 and at the time of your birth one of your parents was:
- a British citizen; or
- legally settled in the United Kingdom.

3) You were born in the United Kingdom on or after 1 January 1983 but before 2 October 2000 and at the time of your birth, either of your parents was a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA)

This is because your parent’s stay is regarded as having been free of a time limit under immigration laws.

4) You were born in the United Kingdom between 2 October 2000 and 29 April 2006 to parents who were EEA citizens and one of your parents had been given indefinite leave to remain before the date of your birth.

However, if one of your parents has been given indefinite leave to remain at a later date, you may register to become a British citizen.

5) If you were born in the United Kingdom on or after 30 April 2006 to parents who were EEA citizens and one of your parents had permanent residence status before the date of your birth.

However, if one of your parents has been given permanent residence status at a later date, you may register to become a British citizen.

6) You were born in the United Kingdom on or after 2 October 2000 to EEA citizens who had an unconditional right of residence under EC law.
People with unconditional right of residence include those who are retired or who cannot work because of illness or disability.

7) Your parents are family members of citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) who were settled at the time of your birth.
If your parents are family members of an EEA citizen who was exercising Treaty rights, they may have been settled in their own right when you were born in the United Kingdom. If they were not, you are a British citizen only if the EEA citizen who was exercising Treaty rights was settled at the time of your birth.

If you were born overseas

If you were born outside the United Kingdom or British overseas territories, the requirements you will need to meet to claim British nationality are the following, according to your date of birth.

You are a British citizen if:

a)  You were born before 1 January 1983 and before that date, you were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies with the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
You may have had citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by descent from a father who had that citizenship, or because you were registered or naturalised as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

If you have a passport issued before 1 January 1983 that describes you as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies on page 1, you will almost certainly have become a British citizen on 1 January 1983 as long as page 5 says ‘Holder has the right of abode in the United Kingdom’.

However, if you had the right of abode because you were registered under the British Nationality (No2) Act 1964, you will not normally have become a British citizen on 1 January 1983 unless your mother became a British citizen then.

You may have had right of abode if:

• you were adopted, naturalised or registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies in the United Kingdom (except in certain circumstances);
• you had been legally settled in the United Kingdom and ordinarily resident there for five years; or
• when you were born, you had a parent who was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies because he/she was born, adopted, naturalised or registered in the United Kingdom (except in certain circumstances), or because one of your grandparents was.
b) You were born on or after 1 January 1983 and:
• one of your parents at the time of your birth was a British citizen otherwise than by descent:
You are then a British citizen by descent.

However , if you were born before 1 July 2006 you may not qualify if your parents were not married at the time of your birth.
• one of your parents at the time of your birth was a British citizen in Crown service, designated service, or service of a European Community institution and he/she was recruited to that service:
- in the United Kingdom;
- in the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory (if you were born on or after 21 May 2002); or
- in the European Community (for service with a European Community institution).
Then you are a British citizen otherwise than by descent.
If you were born on or after 1 January 1983 outside the United Kingdom or qualifying territory and your parents were British citizens by descent, you are not a British citizen.
However, you may be able to apply to register as a British citizen.

If you do not meet the criteria to claim for nationality, you may nonetheless be able to register to become naturalised as a British citizen. The different routes to naturalisation will be detailed in the next guide.

The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. For legal advice regarding your case, you may want to take professional advice from a solicitor or from an immigration adviser registered by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).

By Federica Gaida 

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Scams: how to recognize and avoid them

What to do if you are a victim of a scam

A scam is a scheme designed to steal people’s money by several means of deception. The scam may take the shape of someone using a false name or a false qualification or even abusing of his true name or his true qualification in order to convince someone else to give him undue money. 

Today, scammers are more numerous and more dangerous than ever because of their ability to use the classical services as well as the new technologies. Nowadays, you are likely to face scams by post, phone or emails.
According to the UK Office of Fair Trading, around three million UK customers lose a total of £ 3.5 billion to scams every year.

I) How to recognize a scam?

Warning signs

Broadly speaking, when an advertising or something promises you a great deal or a good for a very cheap price, in other words if it sounds too good to be true, it is likely to be a spam.  If someone you have never heard of contacts you by post, phone or email for instance and makes you an offer that you have to accept or refuse immediately it might be a scam. Actually, scammers don’t want people to think too much and to find out. They will try to force a quick decision by saying things like “there is almost no more models in stock… it is now or never”.
There are different types of scam, according to the shape they are likely to take and according to the deal they propose. Historically, the first scams took the shape of face to face discussions and post mail letters, whose victims were often elder people. Later, the phone has been fully used by scammers.

Telemarketing fraud

What is known as “telemarketing fraud” is a crime and these criminals use the phone to commit many types of scams: lottery fraud, loan fraud, credit card scam… You have to be careful because telephone scammers are very good at what they do. They will use every means to make you send them money, including implying that they work for a company that you trust. 

Phishing scams

Scammers often use emails to ask people to give them out their personal information such as banking details, credit cards numbers or various passwords.  Phishing emails may look genuine: scammers will copy a firm’s logo and its typography in order to make you believe it is coming from an established legitimate business, for instance your bank or a well known company.

TV scam

Many people in the UK use Sky television, if it is your case, you should be aware of the risks of TV scams. Some recorded voice may call you and ask you if you are a Sky subscriber, if you say yes, you are likely to receive a second phone call one week later. This time, you will speak with a live person who will claim to be from Sky billing department. He will ask you for your bank account numbers, claiming that you did not pay your subscription for the last month. He won’t hesitate to tell you that Sky TV will be suspended if you don’t give him the details he asks. Some people even received phone calls from supposed Sky employees who informed them that they were paying a little bit too much and offering them to reduce the bills. Once again, they were asked for their bank account details… You must be aware of the Sky policy that they will never ask for these details by phone but always by writing. For the moment, the only TV scam has been noticed with Sky TV but it could come soon with other TV networks.
Scams may also vary according to the trick they contain; here are some examples of the most notorious ones.

Lottery scam

In olden times, lottery scams were only sent by post, today, they are mainly shaped as emails. Someday you are likely to receive a message in your email box supposedly coming from the National Lottery (with its address details and references…). This message will happily announce to you the online draw of the UK National Lottery held on a specific day and it will inform you that your email address attached to a ticket number drew the lucky numbers.

Then, you will be asked to contact their fiduciary agent on his email address to claim your prize, a total sum of £150.236…  You should know that the lottery in UK is the government’s business and, as a general rule, if you have not purchased a ticket for the National Lottery, you will never win any prize. Secondly, the National Lottery will never tell you, even if you are a player, how much you won in an email and if the email says “winning notification” or “lottery sweep stake” in the text, then that email is not from the National Lottery.

‘Nigerian’ scam (or scam 419)

In an email or post mail, scammers may pretend they are officials, businessmen, or former politicians from an African country (often from Nigeria but not always), whose bank account is unfortunately frozen in an African bank. They will propose you to pay a small fee in order to help them to get their money back. They will pretend to reward you by transferring a big sum of money on your bank account (as a percentage of their money kept in the bank account). If you accept the deal, pay the fee and give them your bank account details, they are even likely to send you fake documents to make you believe that you really made a good deal, which is of course the opposite. Worst, they can also propose you to come to Africa to bring the money by yourself and you will be stolen at the arrival.

Work-at-home scams

Don’t get taken by these advertisement messages which will offer you a home-based business for great income. They will let you know that every day, thousands of people just like you are working at home in the various fields of telephone work, computer work, assembling products, envelope-stuffing, crafts and much more. They may also say things like “hundred of companies all over the country want to hire you as an independent home worker” and often insist on the fact that you will earn “fast cash” for minimum work. The sender will usually ask you to pay for a registration fee and you will, off course never receive any real work opportunities in return. They may even ask you to place their own scam to your contacts in order to recruit new victims.

The romance scam

This kind of scam, also known as the “Spanish prisoner” scam is one of the oldest   confidence tricks. It is usually perpetrated on the online dating services or on the chat rooms. In some   ways, it is a variant of the Nigerian scam. It usually works this way: the scammers post fake profile on  a dating site. The woman’s profile picture will of course be very attractive and often there is just one.  The targets are both sex, but more frequently men, of any age and of any sexual orientation. The  scammers will try their best to seduce and then communicate with their victims searching for a love  affair. They will try their best to communicate outside the website area. If they come to talk to each other on the phone, the scammers will even hire real women to do this job. The supposed woman will always live in a foreign country, often West Africa and will not be able to move in the victim’s country unless he helps her by sending her money. The money will usually have to be sent via Western Union due to the supposed inefficient banking system in West Africa. Like in the Nigerian scam, you may be asked to come somewhere and be robbed at your arrival.

2) How to avoid scams?

Ask your bank not to accept any payments abroad unless you previously authorized them.
Never answer the scam messages listed above: just delete them. Don’t even open the email messages when the title looks strange and when the mailer address is unknown to you. The simple fact of opening such a message may let the scammer know, via a spy software, that your email address exists and that you are one of his potential victims. Many good antivirus programs and firewalls are sold, so you should always download one on your computer and be careful to update it.

If any company, including your own bank or your credit card company calls you and asks to confirm your personal information (bank account details, passwords…), you should decline, even if they dislike it. If you are on line with your real bank or any trustable company, they will let you call them back through a central switch board. They also should be able to give you a name and a contact number.

If you are moving out, you should think to give your new address to all the companies you are dealing with, especially your bank. Remember that you have to re-direct your post mail via Royal Mail, otherwise the new tenants might get your post mail and thus get free access to your personal information. 

When you wish to throw your old stuff in the garbage, like your old correspondence and papers, including your paper credit card statements, you should use a shredder. If you do not own one, burn these papers or at least tear them into small pieces. Just do the necessary to prevent anyone ill intentioned to use them against you.

Do not post too much personal details on the internet in general and in particular via social life networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. Always be aware of the people who get access to these information, they might be your “friends” but also the “friends” of your friends… or even someone unregistered to the website. These websites also have privacy policies and allow you to decide which information you wish to share with who. These information are likely to be used by scammers to clone your identity (for instance to create a romance scam profile). On these kind of websites, you should also be careful before accepting a new friendship request, especially if you have never heard of the person before.

3) What to do if you are a victim of a scam

Be aware that you are a victim

First of all, make sure that you notice the signs. Usually, your concern should be things regarding your bank account: if you are charged for stuff you didn’t buy, if you don’t receive your monthly financial statements anymore (some fraudster might receive them). If any debt collection agencies contact you about unexpected payments (regarding items you never ordered for instance).

Don’t underestimate the  problem

If you catch any signs of scam, don’t ignore them or don’t minimize the situation. Of course, it might just be a mistake from a company which takes you for someone else. It also could be some scammers who stole your identity and your bank account details and thus the debt will fall to your name and address. If the bank blacklists you, it might take a long time to prove you have nothing to do with these expenses. It could be a problem in the future to obtain a mortgage or a loan from them. 

Report the scam to the Office of Fair Trading

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is a non ministerial department of the United Kingdom which enforces consumer protection and competition law. Established in 1973 by the Fair Trading Act, the OFT is the UK’s economic regulator. If you are the unfortunate victim of one of these scams, you should report it to the OFT. The OFT’s agents will investigate and possibly prosecute the criminals. To help them, you should give as much details as you can.

If you have given out your credit card or debit card information

When you realize that you have been trapped by scammers, the first thing to do is to report the theft of your information to your bank, the card issuer, as soon as possible. Most of the banks have a special service, working 24 hours a day which you can call anytime at a special free number. If you don’t possess this phone number, you should find it on your bank’s website. Credit companies and banks are responsible for verifying the crime and reporting it to the police. 

Afterwards, if your bank account is not cancelled, you will have to check your billing statements carefully in case they show an unauthorized charge. If this is the case, tell the bank and give them all the details regarding each questionable charge. Credit companies and banks are responsible for verifying the crime and reporting it to the police. 

If you are the victim of a national identity fraud

You should advise all the creditors with whom you have an account: bank, store cards, phone and utility companies. Even if no one tried anything on your behalf, they will be aware of the threat and will monitor your accounts to prevent them from any theft. You should also inform the protective registration service. They will place a notice on your credit file in order to prevent any identity fraud with your personal information.

By Alexandre Blondieau,
Cartwright Adams Solicitors
16 Old Bond Street, Mayfair, LONDON  W1S 4PS

The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Cartwright Adams on +4420 74089270 for a Consultation with a Solicitor.

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Benefit frauds: beware of what you claim

Benefit fraud is a crime. Break the law and you could face a criminal record

26th January 2010: If you deliberately fail to report a change in your personal circumstances or are dishonest about information supporting your benefit claim, you are treated as committing benefit fraud.

If you are suspected of committing benefit fraud, you may be visited by Fraud Investigation officers from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or be asked to attend an interview to discuss your claim. Your benefit may be suspended while the matter is looked into. If this happens, you should receive a letter explaining what will happen next.

You need to tell your benefits office about any changes in circumstances as soon as possible. They will tell you if it affects your benefit.

Some changes may mean you're entitled to new or additional benefits, but others could mean you no longer qualify for benefit, or should receive a lower amount. You may be overpaid if th You must report any change in your circumstances to your local benefit office as soon as it happens, whether or not you think the change is directly related to your benefits.

Some examples of the changes you need to report include:

• getting married, entering into a civil partnership or moving in with a partner
• moving house
• getting a new job
• getting a pay rise
• inheriting or unexpectedly coming into money
• taking in a lodger
• no longer being sick or ill
• travelling or moving abroad

Sometimes a change in your circumstances may mean that your benefit rate will change, or that you become entitled to an additional or a different benefit. For example, if you're a lone parent getting Housing Benefit and you decide to look for work, you may be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance as well.

Other changes in your circumstances, for example getting a pay rise, may mean you no longer qualify for a benefit or will get a reduced amount.

Benefit fraud

If you deliberately fail to report a change in your personal circumstances you are treated as having committed benefit fraud. If you're prosecuted for benefit fraud you could be fined or get a prison sentence.

Once Fraud Investigation officers have collected facts about your case a decision will be made on whether or not to take further action. If there's evidence that you’re committing benefit fraud, any of the following may happen:

• you may be prosecuted
• you may be asked to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution
• your benefit may be reduced or withdrawn
• you will be asked to repay the overpaid benefit

If you are convicted of two separate benefit fraud offences, you may find your entitlement to certain benefits is reduced or withdrawn for a disqualification period.

If you have any questions about your benefits, a benefit claim or an investigation, it's a good idea to contact your benefits office. You may have made a genuine mistake, or be unsure if something applies in your particular case.
If you are worried about being suspected of benefit fraud, you may want to get independent advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you are facing prosecution for benefit fraud or being asked to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution, it's a good idea to seek legal advice from a solicitor, or consult an experienced adviser.

Benefit fraud cost the country around £900 million in 2008-09. If you think someone is committing benefit fraud, find out how you can report them and stop them taking money from the people who need it most.
Benefit Fraud Hotline
Telephone: (0500) 658008        
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Written by Anna Zdunczyk, Solicitor at Lita Gale Solicitors

The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Lita Gale Solicitors on 020 7404 2899 for a Consultation with a Solicitor.

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