Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, has reported an increase in cold calls to the public from bogus bailiffs requesting payments for a “phantom” debt.
The fraud involves being cold-called by someone claiming to be a bailiff working on behalf of a court, attempting to recover funds for a non-existent debt.
The fraudsters request payment by bank transfer and if refused they threaten to visit homes or workplaces in person in order to recover the debt that owed.
Key facts about bailiffs
A bailiff is someone who has a legal power to collect certain debts. They may do this by asking you to pay what you owe, or by taking and selling your belongings to raise the money.
Bailiffs are only used to recover certain debts such as council tax, child support and compensation orders. Bailiffs are not used to recover debts relating to private advertisement; these would be collected by debt collectors.
Debt collectors do not have the same legal powers as bailiffs and will not have special court authorisation to act. If you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with a bailiff or a debt collector, check the Citizens Advice website.
How to protect yourself
Make vigorous checks if you ever get a cold call associated with a bailiff.
If you work for a business and receive a call or visit from bailiffs or debt collectors, be sure to speak with your manager or business owner first. Never pay the debts yourself on behalf of the business you work for; some fraudsters have suggested employees do this whilst talking with them, suggesting they can then be reimbursed by their employer, when in reality the debt is non-existent.
Request details of the debt in writing to confirm its legitimacy.
Do not feel rushed or intimidated to make a decision based on a phone call.
Report any suspicious calls on the Action Fraud website.