Benefit cheat rumbled thanks to Facebook pictures

Posted on February 24, 2011


Facebook has claimed yet another victim who didn’t quite grasp that a public profile on the site meant just that – any member of the public can see it, including friends, family, general Internet surfers, police, fraud investigators and so on.

Hazel Cunningham enjoyed a dream wedding in Barbados, and posted her wedding photos on the social networking site for those who were not fortunate enough to attend the ceremony on the sun-kissed island. This all seemed fine and dandy, except that Mrs Cunningham had been pretended to be Ms Cunningham for some time.

Hazel Cunningham posts wedding photos on FacebookTherefore when she innocently posted up her wedding photos, fraud investigators at her local council were also appreciating the images, but for entirely different reasons.

Cunningham, from Ashford, Kent, had been living with her husband and claiming benefits after declaring that she was a single mother and unfit for work, which amounted to £170 per week. Cashing in her Income Support, Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit, she enjoyed luxury holidays to Turkey as many as three times per year.

Further to this, she also failed to declare that she was receiving maternity pay from her employer.

Smelling an easy collar, fraud investigators hauled the 47-year-old before magistrates in Folkestone, Kent, where she was handed down a prison sentence of 120 days and ordered to repay £15,000 of fraudulently claimed benefit.

This is the latest in a long line of calamitous status updates made on the site, and illustrates all too easily how such a slip up may be made by the unwary. Although it has cost Mrs Cunningham dear, it can have more of an impact on a business. The correct usage of social media sites is paramount to any SEO campaign, and any search engine optimisation expert from Kent, Cheshire, or any other county in the UK will have many horror stories to share.

Facebook has over half a billion people using it, making it the most powerful form of social marketing and an invaluable tool to aid with SEO; make sure you use it properly.

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