Regulator Issues ‘Debt Help Scammers’ Warning
August 23, 2019
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned consumers across the UK to lookout for online scammers who are pretending to offer debt help but are actually aiming to rip people off.
A number of companies that are authorised by the FCA to provide debt help support for free have had their online presences ‘cloned’ by the fraudsters who have no intention of providing any proper assistance to their unsuspecting victims.
The aim of the scammers is apparently to trick people who are struggling with debts into handing over details about their finances and then paying for ‘advice’ that they are not authorised to provide.
Charities who provide genuine support to thousands of people each year are being caught up in these scenarios because the scammers impersonate them online in order to dupe their targets into parting with their money.
The likes of StepChange and the National Debtline are among those known to have been impersonated by the fraudsters.
The FCA is urging people who need help in coping with their debts to take some time to be sure of who they’re dealing with whenever they communicate with third parties offering debt help services.
Part of the problem is understood to be the way in which charity websites can be cloned and presented by Google as genuine sources of debt advice or intermediary support when people search for those types of service online.
The Money Advice Trust, which runs the National Debtline, wants to see more action taken to ensure that people who need support in dealing with their finances aren’t being given bad advice or tricked into paying money they don’t need to spend.
“These ‘lead generator’ companies that masquerade as National Debtline and other free debt advice providers make it more challenging for people in financial difficulty to get the free, impartial advice they need,” said Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust.
“Our concern is that these impersonators can lead people into receiving unsuitable and wrong advice at a time when they are most in need of support.
“If you are seeking advice, check the details of any links you are clicking on to make sure they are those of the genuine organisation. If you have suspicions, report your concerns.”