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All credit to the Chron! FRAUD PROBE AFTER OUR STORY.

Byline: SARA NICOL

A SUSPECTED fraud investigation is under way after the wrong tax credit details were sent to a Tyneside home.

Confused Michael Leech was shocked to find someone else's personal details when he opened a letter addressed to his home in Burnopfield, Gateshead.

The letter, from HM Revenue and Customs, was seeking information about tax credit payments and appeared to be meant for someone else and contained what Mr Leech believed to be his age, address, national insurance and income.

After receiving similar letters during the next six weeks, the bewildered 46-year-old contacted the Chronicle, who brought it to the attention of HM Revenue and Customs.

Suspicions were aroused when it emerged nobody under that name had ever lived at Mr Leech's address and a subsequent criminal investigation was launched.

A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said: "Since the Chronicle brought this matter to our attention, we have been treating it as a criminal offence.

"We have stopped the tax credit payments to that name and address with immediate effect. We are grateful to the Chronicle for flagging the matter up to us."

Mr Leech contacted the tax credit office as soon as he realised the letter was meant for someone else but, due to data protection issues, they were unable to discuss the matter. Mr Leech, who lives with his wife and two sons, said: "I'm completely shocked it appears someone has been using my address to claim tax credit payments.

"I genuinely believed it was down to human error that I was being sent someone else's details and I'm astounded there could be a crime behind it.

"You do here about mix-ups all the time, where people are sent someone else's personal information, and I thought it was just one of those kind of cases.

"I'm very grateful to the Chronicle for finding this out for me, otherwise I may never have known."

A spokeswoman for HM Revenue and Customs added: "If a letter from us is sent to the wrong address, the best thing to do is not open it and put 'return to sender' on the front, before posting it."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 9, 2009
Words:357
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