The risks of ‘stop the bailiff’ adverts and who to trust for legitimate debt advice.

The risks of ‘stop the bailiff’ adverts and who to trust for legitimate debt advice.

A recent investigation by the BBC found that adverts claiming to offer ‘help with debts’ on social media were targeting people in financial trouble. They claim to be able to help people ‘write off debts’ under the guise of an IVA, in many cases this would leave people in a worse financial position.

An individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) is an agreement between a person in debt and a practitioner, who takes on the debt through payment instalments. While there are plenty of reputable IVA firms that have legitimately assisted thousands with getting a better handle on financial situations, a minority are recommending IVAs when it is not necessary or appropriate and this can affect credit scores.

Misleading adverts and sites, often under the banner of ‘stop bailiffs’ ‘free debt help’ carry enticing wording such as free advice or claim to have written off debt for others. There is often no mention of fees, the risk involved or evidence behind the claims made. The advice given is usually to ignore correspondence from the council or enforcement firms. Selling you an IVA will likely result in additional charges being added to your existing debt. As always, the best way to resolve problem debt is to address it as early as possible with the people that you owe.

Sometimes specific and legitimate enforcement firms will even be named in these advertisements, with captions such as ‘Click here to stop [enforcement company name]’. This is done to tempt members of the public, who have been contacted by the named firm, into thinking they have discovered a loophole. They haven’t, and none exist. Deception of this kind is not unlike other fraudster and scam tactics, such as those who speculatively call people pretending to be certified enforcement agents themselves. Just like in those scenarios, it is important to remember there are steps you can take to protect yourself and check that you are in contact with somebody that is legitimately who they say they are.

Who can I trust for free debt advice?

It is always best to respond to contact or to proactively reach out to the creditor or enforcement company trying to reach you as soon as possible. Enforcement Agents are also trained to identify vulnerable people and will often refer people to dedicated welfare teams or back to the creditor for review. This is the quickest and easiest way to ensure a problem debt can be resolved and does not get even worse.

If you want to seek impartial debt advice first, only use free services, such Citizens Advice and StepChange Debt Charity that are well-established and can speak to you about debt problems or signpost you to other support services.

Whilst being served an advert promising to resolve your financial situation in a few clicks might seem appealing, it is always worth remembering that something sounding too good to be true, probably is. If you owe a debt to your Local Authority, an advert on social media cannot miraculously make this go away. It is everyone’s responsibility to pay their taxes and fines and there are no safe ways to avoid this.

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