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Hotline for ex-pat benefit cheats

The Government has launched a hotline in a bid to track down British benefit fraudsters living in Portugal.

The move is aimed at catching ex-pats claiming benefits they are not entitled to.

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform said: "Fraud abroad cost the taxpayer around £66 million last year. This money should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves in places like Portugal.

"We are determined to stop benefit thieves stealing from the British taxpayer.

"We are reforming the benefits system to make it less open to abuse and extending our reach further across Europe."

Fraud involves a range of scams such as people on means-tested benefits going abroad but failing to declare their absence, and individuals working while claiming sickness benefits.

The Portugal phone line is an extension of a successful hotline in Spain, which opened in September 2008 to cover the Alicante region and was extended into other areas covering Malaga, the Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands in March 2009.

Residents can report suspected British benefit thieves to a free-phone local number: 800 208 638.

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