Consuming Issues: Scam debt text hopes to trick the vulnerable
Saturday 02 April 2011
Debt settlement orders are a new government-backed scheme which allow people struggling with debt to apply to have it written off. At least that's according to a text I received this week. But the text is a scam: there is no such thing as a debt settlement order (although there is the similar-sounding debt relief order) and there's no government-backed scheme which allows you to have your debts written off.
There are schemes that can help people struggling with debt, as Mark Sands, head of personal insolvency and bankruptcy at accountants RSM Tenon points out. "These email scammers are taking advantage of other people's misfortune just when they need and deserve good advice. I'm worried that as these so-called debt settlement orders sound so similar to legitimate debt relief orders that many may fall foul of this scam," Mr Sands says.
His advice? "This is a complex area and the public should know that the decision between debt management plans, debt relief orders, individual voluntary arrangements and bankruptcy should only be made after taking professional advice."
But whoever is responsible for these texts hopes you'll be tricked into responding, either to ask for more info or to stop further texts. Either way they will have achieved their aim of finding out whether your mobile number is live – and once they have that the spam torrent will start.
You could end up being bombarded by offers from dodgy debt management companies who will try and charge a fee for dealing with your debts, but actually do nothing more than take your cash leaving you in a worse financial state. Currently we're waiting to hear the results of a Citizens Advice super-complaint against dodgy debt firms lodged with the Office of Fair Trading last month, but until the Government acts to close them down they'll be able to continue ripping-off those in financial straits.
What is pernicious about these spam texts is that they target vulnerable people who may clutch at the straw of a debt solution, only to find that they're entering a whole new world of financial pain.
The growing menace of the texts has angered James Wiseman, a 34-year-old IT consultant. When he received one and realised the damage it could cause, he set up a warning website (at www.jameswiseman.com/blog/2011/01/17/debt-settlement-order-unsolicited-text-message). Now he wants to take the campaign further to force the Government to introduce legislation to stop these kinds of dodgy activities.
"When I set up my website I simply felt that this sort of thing is a scam which should be condemned. But as I got more and more responses, I was struck by the humanity of the situation and filled with an acute awareness of the true suffering that some might be feeling," James says.
"Debt is a plight that doesn't tend to lie in the general public's compassion sweet-spot. It engenders a perception that somehow an individual has been frivolous, and maybe shouldn't have bought that 50-inch plasma television. But in a society where we are openly encouraged to embrace debt, there are inevitably some casualties. When desperate people are are at their most vulnerable, so they clutch at the flimsiest of straws, and there are none flimsier than some of the companies that purport to help with debt relief."
James says it's time to make it illegal for anyone to charge up-front for helping to resolve debt. Legitimate debt managers – there are some – will argue the case. But there's no need to pay for advice when you can get it free through debt charities. For starters you can try your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Or call National Debtline, part of the Money Advice Trust, on 0808 808 4000. Or you can get free counselling through the Consumer Credit Counselling Service at www.cccs.co.uk or on 0800 1381 111.
Fuel poverty could kill 100,000 vulnerable people over the next 15 years, charity warns
Bargain Hunter: Affordable art - suddenly being a collector is just a walk in the park
Phoenix Life: Chance of a refund for overcharged policyholders has risen
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
Simon Read: That's right, BT, they'd rather pay for a free service
- 1 Michelle Rodriguez: Fast & Furious actor apologises after telling 'minorities' to stop taking on 'white' roles
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads