Welfare fraud: punishment & consequences

You see it regularly in the newspaper: welfare fraud, and the municipality reclaiming thousands of euros. Maybe you’re guilty of that. The penalties for social assistance fraud vary from community service to imprisonment. The fraudulent person must repay the social assistance benefit, the benefit will be stopped or reduced. The serious cases appear in court. What are the consequences of welfare fraud? What punishment is imposed for social assistance fraud? How can you report social assistance fraud?

What is social assistance fraud?

Social assistance benefit is a social safety net intended for people who cannot provide for themselves. Social assistance fraud is fraud with social assistance benefits. Concealing your own income or assets is a common form of social assistance fraud. Even if you do not report changes in your situation in a timely manner (the obligation to provide information), you are guilty of fraud.

Report assistance fraud

If you suspect social assistance fraud, you can report it on the website of the municipality where the fraudulent person lives. You can usually report social assistance fraud anonymously by completing a form. Your data will be treated confidentially.

Welfare fraud: punishment & consequences

Welfare benefit fraud can be severely punished. The assistance wrongly received will be reclaimed. In addition, a punishment is often imposed, such as a heavy community service order. You may also face criminal charges and be taken to court. In extreme cases, a prison sentence may be imposed. The penalty depends on the amount of the fraud and the duration of the fraud. If you have committed fraud before, it will be more serious than if you were convicted for the first time.

Detecting social assistance fraud

The social investigation service is responsible for detecting social assistance fraud. Detectives investigate social assistance fraud, for example by linking your data with data known to the Tax Authorities or another government agency. Social assistance fraud can also be detected through social media. Data that is left on websites, consciously or unconsciously, can help the social investigation service to detect fraud.

Repay social assistance benefits

If social assistance fraud comes to light, you must repay the social assistance benefit. Even when it concerns several years. That is called reclaiming. You almost always have to pay back more than what you received in social assistance. The benefit is reclaimed gross, while it was paid net.

Hire a lawyer for social assistance fraud

If the Municipal Social Services terminates your social assistance benefit due to fraud, you must immediately contact a lawyer. You must also object to the decisions you receive regarding your benefits, otherwise this will have major consequences. The municipality often reclaims more than is necessary.

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