Consuming Issues: Scam debt text hopes to trick the vulnerable

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.

s.read@independent.co.uk

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

    £350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

    Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

    Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

    Test Lead - London - Investment Banking

    £475 - £525 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Investment Banking, Technical ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game