How to protect yourself from imposter bailiffs and fraudsters.
Welcome to our blog series, exploring the key topics being discussed in the enforcement industry. Today we look at the topic of fraud and how members of the public can stay safe against fraudsters.
The Ministry of Justice recently posted updated guidance relating to fraudsters impersonating bailiffs. CIVEA is aware that the details of some firms have been used in the past by imposters in their attempts to scam members of the public. During the coronavirus pandemic and since lockdowns began, some criminals have tried to take advantage of people at home who may be vulnerable. Therefore, we continue to reiterate this guidance on what to do if people consider an approach from an enforcement agent to be suspicious.
Scammers posing as Enforcement Agents is not a new phenomenon. Every year there are reports of fraudsters phoning members of the public, posing as County Court bailiffs, High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) and Enforcement Agents (EAs), claiming that the person owes money and demanding that they transfer funds into a bank account. The Ministry of Justice publishes a register of certificated agents, along with the court that awarded the certificate, its expiry date and the company the agent works for. Fraudsters use this to convince victims that they are genuine, but this information is publicly available and does not prove that an agent is legitimate.
CIVEA advises that each case will have unique reference number from the court, which will be on all correspondence. Fraudsters cannot access this information. Case numbers can be checked directly with the company in question or against any previous correspondence, so any contact referencing this case number can be accepted as proof of legitimacy. If there is an unwillingness or a refusal to confirm the correct case number, the conversation should be terminated and the incident flagged to the relevant authorities.
It is important that people understand CIVEA member firms may call them to discuss a warrant of control and will offer to take debit or credit card payments over the phone. But it must be reiterated that the telephone conversation will never see a legitimate agent ask for bank details, sort codes or account numbers to complete a bank transfer.
If anyone claiming to be a county court bailiff, an HCEO or an EA calls asking for this information, no payment should be made and no bank details supplied.
After ending a suspicious call there are important next steps to make. If the caller said they are an HCEO or EA, the recipient can contact either the High Court Enforcement Officers Association or ourselves for more information. If the caller said they were an HMCTS bailiff, the local county court should be contacted right away to verify. Contact details for county courts are available on GOV.UK.
CIVEA member firms will not authorise an enforcement visit without prior notification. Therefore, it is essential to update the enforcement firm of any change of address, and the DVLA if you own a vehicle. All EAs visiting residential premises are following government guidance and are well versed on coronavirus safety measures, such as conducting contactless visits, exercising social distancing and using protective equipment. Enforcement agents have recently received refresher training on working safely during the pandemic. If someone claiming to be an EA does not appear to be using PPE or keeping an adequate distance from the doorstep, it is perfectly reasonable to consider this suspicious. CIVEA advice remains to ask for the relevant case number before offering up any personal information and following the same procedure of ending conversations and contacting related authorities immediately.
If you believe you have been a victim of a scam you should report the matter immediately to Action Fraudonline or on 0300 123 2040.
PO Box 745
If you wish to make a complaint against a member of CIVEA, please go to our complaints page and follow the procedure detailed there. Your email will be acknowledged within 5 working days.
CIVEA is unable to discuss complaint matters over the telephone and complaints should be sent in writing. This is to ensure that the details of your complaint are accurately recorded and understood which makes it easier in addressing your complaint thoroughly. Please advise if you have a disability, so that we can make reasonable adjustments.
You can contact us by email, letter or telephone.