Scams, Identity Theft and Debt Collection Agencies
I have received reports from two members who have received calls to themselves or
elderly relatives from people purporting to represent debt collection agencies and
demanding immediate payment of non-existent debts.
This could be the result of identity theft, a scam or incorrect information given
to the agency by the company that sold the debt to them.
Whichever of these is the reason they are all difficult to deal with as the callers
use threats of court action, pursue aggressively and appear not to listen. The temptation
is to pay up and hope the problem goes away. In the case of scams this may result
in further approaches as you might be regarded as an easy touch and your name could
be forwarded to others.
The debt industry makes it easy to set up a scam. There are thousands of debt collection
businesses. They buy the debt from a bank, for about 5% of the actual value, and
then they start harassing the clients. This makes it difficult to separate the scams
from the ‘official’ debt collection agencies.
There are rules governing licensed debt collection agencies and they have limited
powers though they are unlikely to declare them. Several web sites provide information
on this including http://www.goingdebtfree.co.uk/debt-collectors-and-your-rights.html
and for avoiding identity theft http://www.advicenow.org.uk.
There seems to be no easy route to resolving disputes of this nature but organisations
that can help include Trading Standards, Citizens Advice Bureau and The Office of
Where there is unreasonable harassment the police should be involved.
The Metropolitan Police offer the following advice for avoiding identity theft,
* Be careful with your personal information. If you receive a telephone call
from a credit card company, bank or other retail company asking to confirm certain
details about yourself decline them and ask to call them back preferably through
a central switchboard. Never give out personal details or passwords.
* When destroying personal correspondence such as bank and credit card statements
consider a shredder or even burning them with garden refuse. If you cannot do either
then tear the papers up into very small pieces and place in the refuse bin with other
* If you move address remember to inform all of the companies that send personal
information to you in the post. Always consider re-directing your post with Royal
Mail. If you fail to do this, people moving in might have free access to your personal
details and misappropriate them.
* Always use an anti virus programme and firewall on your computer.
* Beware of unsolicited emails. Do not respond to emails that have apparently
originated from your bank or other authority/company. Remember that a bank will not
ask for your details via unsolicited emails.
* Do not post personal details on the internet which could collectively be used
to clone your identity.
* Instruct your bank not to accept any payments abroad unless previously authorised.
Take Action - Act Quickly
* Firstly do not ignore the problem it might not be you that has ordered some
goods or opened an account but the debt falls to your name and address.
* Once blacklisted for credit it may take many years to fully resolve the problem.
You might have difficulties in obtaining a mortgage or other bank credit.
* When unexpectedly called, ask for a name and contact number and verify this
with the organisation before calling back. They should be able to provide your customer
reference number which can be obtained from billing documents.
* Consider obtaining a copy of your credit report from a credit reference agency
such as Callcredit, Equifax or Experian, and monitor your report for discrepancies.