Civil servants are urging British expats claiming the state pension not to ignore ‘proof of life’ forms – because they are likely to lose their pensions if they do not deal with them.
The life certificates are issued to expats in countries which the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) consider have a high fraud risk or where the local authorities do not share bereavement information with the UK.
The DWP has sent the forms out since 2013.
They have a nine-month deadline, and if the original form and a reminder are ignored, the DWP will stop paying the state pension as an anti-fraud measure.
The form-filling is aimed at stopping friends and relatives of a dead expat from continuing to claim their state pension.
The expat receiving the state pension must sign the form and get it witnessed by a neighbour or professional in the country where they are living.
If the form is late or not completed correctly, its likely pension payments will stop.
“We will assume a pensioner is dead even if they telephone or email us, because we cannot prove that the right person is at the other end of the line or sending the message,” said a DWP spokesman.
“The only proof of life we will accept if the certificate.
“This is taxpayer money and we will do whatever we can to make sure it is not paid to fraudsters.”
Who receives the form often depends on where they live – the DWP explained that the Spanish government automatically tells them about expat deaths, but the French government does not.
As a result, expats in France receive the form, but those in Spain do not.
The DWP has comprehensive information about dealing with life certificates online.
The list of people who can sign a life certificate is the same as that for signing a photograph for a passport application, so excludes relatives.
Full details about who can sign are also online
Many expats are likely to be asked to complete a life certificate in the run-up to the introduction of the flat rate state pension in April 2016.
Around 5 million British expats are estimated to be living abroad, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Many complain that the state pension system is unfair because their payments are not index-linked, but others receive significant monthly payments that are cut off if they do not complete a request for a life certificate.