Derby

Universal Credit loan company fraud claim: Minister intervenes

Alishia Curry
Image caption Alishia Curry said she was persuaded to apply for an emergency loan before being defrauded

A minister is urgently investigating how a woman was duped by an online loan company that pocketed her benefits.

Mother-of-three Alishia Curry said instead of processing her details for a loan, the firm submitted a Universal Credit request in her name which led to regular payments being stopped.

Ms Curry, from Buxton, Derbyshire, said she lost about £1,000 in one month and has had to miss meals to save money.

Work and pensions minister Justin Tomlinson said he would investigate.

He said he was treating the case "as a matter of urgency".

Ms Curry, who is pregnant with her fourth child, said she applied for an emergency loan to replace her cooker.

She said she searched online for a loan and entered in details to make an application, and when she was called back they took personal and financial details that were then used to claim benefits.

Image copyright UK Parliament
Image caption High Peak MP Ruth George said the mother was left with no access to money for the next month

When her existing benefits did not come through Ms Curry learned she had been signed up for Universal Credit without her knowledge but with the funds going into someone else's bank account.

Since this happened she has lost about £1,000 in income support and child tax credits which were stopped once her Universal Credit application went through.

She said she had been advised to use a food bank or borrow money.

Ms Curry said she did not know which company used her details to make the application, which was approved by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), even though she never met anyone in person.

"Surely they should have asked me to go down for a face-to-face [meeting] or something before they verified that account," she said.

"I've had to miss meals just to feed the kids. It's depressing."

Labour MP for High Peak Ruth George has been backing Ms Curry and warned people on benefits to be careful of sharing their details.

Ms George said the DWP had insisted the claim was valid as their records showed Ms Curry had been given her advance payment.

She said the case "raises serious questions for the future", and urged anyone on benefits to "be very careful about what information they give to people".

The DWP said it could not comment until Mr Tomlinson's team had concluded its investigation.

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