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16 Aug 2019

Debt Recovery

In The Press – ‘Firms warned to beware of bogus bailiffs’

Businesses embroiled in court action over debt disputes or defaults could face an additional threat from clever fraudsters using officially published financial information to swindle them out their cash, Newport law firm Harding Evans has warned.

Criminals recently used publicly available data on County Court Judgments to pose as bailiffs and trick a prominent business into paying an outstanding debt to them rather than to legitimate creditors.

Will Watkins, a debt recovery specialist with Harding Evans, said scam artists contacted the business, which owed money to a client of theirs, pretending to be High Court bailiffs and threatened to turn up within an hour to seize property unless the business paid the debt owed under the court judgment.

The crooks, who easily discovered the claim number and the sum owed from publicly available information, threatened that large additional fees would be added if immediate payment wasn’t made. The firm unsuspectingly paid more than £10,000 into a bank account given to them by the bogus bailiffs.

Mr. Watkins said: “After transferring the money, someone at the office became suspicious and contacted us. We, unfortunately, had to deliver the news that they had been victims of a con and still owed the money to our client.”

He said: “Fraudsters like these will usually know which buttons to press to trick their victims. Banks are often impersonated with simple cloning software that makes a phone number appear genuine. Many of us can spot the simple scams straight away but, when criminals call, armed with official information, people can be caught off guard.

“Swindlers may promise to remove CCJs if payment is received forthwith, and innocent businesses, who may only have CCJs because of administrative oversights or misaddressed documentation, might be panicked into paying immediately to protect their reputation,” he said.

Mr. Watkins urged businesses to be highly suspicious of purported bailiffs threatening to turn up the same day or to impose additional fees if there’s any delay, because genuine bailiffs must give seven clear days’ notice in writing, setting out the fees they are entitled to charge. Moreover, he said, anyone promising to remove a CCJ in return for immediate payment is not telling the truth because only the courts have the power to do that.

Ultimately, he said, firms should protect themselves by acting early and taking professional advice on managing their debts or dealing promptly with disputes in order to avoid ending up in the county court system.

As seen in South Wales Argus.

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