UNIVERSAL credit fraudsters targeting Bradford's most vulnerable have left one single mum feeling "stressed" and "punished" by the system.

Scarlett Brockhill, who lives in Eccleshill, is one of several Bradfordians to contact the Telegraph & Argus following an investigation by MP Naz Shah (Labour, Bradford West).

The MP wrote to Thérèse Coffey, the secretary of state for work and pensions, warning that many of her constituents had reported losing their tax credits after 'fraudulent claims' were made under their names.

Many of these victims are already struggling with disruption caused by Covid-19 and are concerned about their future.

Mum-of-two Scarlett was receiving child tax credit until last week before the Government department contacted her to say it had been stopped. Yet she did not apply for Universal Credit.

Despite having her case investigated, it now appears she will have to accept the Universal Credit and cannot reapply for her previous tax credits.

It has come at a particularly difficult time for Scarlett who is unwell with a heart murmur and a leaking valve as well as dealing with anxiety and depression. While her seven-year-old son is due to be tested for autism.

"It’s sad because the way I got spoke to on the phone, I felt like I was the criminal," Scarlett said.

"Through no fault of my own me and my kids are being punished, through no fault of our own errors caused by the system or by party’s committing fraud on people like myself, they are now telling me to claim Universal Credit.

"It’s made me very stressed and made me poorly in physical and mental and very stressed and feel like I want answers.

"Why would somebody do this and most of all how have they got my details?

"I’m without money and I’m locked in my house due to Covid-19 lockdown which has also affected my mental status. Now all of this, I can't pay rent which is going to leave me in arrears and without money for my kids. It’s hard enough with having all this."

And she is not alone. Ms Shah said she had received five complaints of this fraud in two days alone.

The MP said: "All have been told by HMRC that their details have been used to apply for Universal Credit, yet none have done so, and consequently have reported this to the police.

“These constituents each have their personal vulnerabilities, whether they have disabilities, young children, or other factors, as well as the fact that their circumstances are reliant on Universal Credit.

"Many of them are hugely distressed and are at a loss to who they can turn to in these moments.

"Given the number of cases, I have received within a matter of days; it seems as though there may be fraudulent action being taken on a much larger scale, and many others could also be in a similar situation."

Another man, who is disabled and has a number of health complications, emailed the Telegraph & Argus to say 'thank God for food parcels' after he too had his details stolen.

He called up HMRC to discuss the claim, which was made on April 11, and said no checks had been made and that some of the details were wrong.

"They advised me to call HMRC and ask for my working tax credits to reinstated, this I did the same day," he said.

"A week later I received a phone call from HMRC informing me that my working tax credit would not be reinstated as no fraud had been committed, I agreed that no fraud had been committed because I had informed everyone it was a fraud and stopped any payments.

"I’ve written to HMRC asking them to reconsider but had no reply.

"They advised me to continue with the claim even if it was fraud.

"Everything in arrears: rent, council tax, gas and electric. Thank good for food parcels."

Naz Shah MP has requested immediate action and further clarity on the matter.

In a message to the Secretary of State, the politician asked: “1) Whether your department is aware of any fraudulent activity taking place, in this regard?

"2) What is being put in place to ensure those whose payments have been suspended, can have their matters resolved immediately?

"3) Was the department prepared to deal with any fraudulent claims, and what processes were put in place to prevent such issues from arising?”