Phantom Debt Fraud

Action Fraud has recently experienced an increase in the number of calls to members of the public by fraudsters requesting payments for a “phantom” debt. The fraud involves being cold-called by someone purporting to be a debt collector, bailiff or other type of enforcement agent. The fraudster may claim to be working under instruction of a court, business or other body and suggest they are recovering funds for a non-existent debt.

The fraudsters are requesting payment, sometimes by bank transfer and if refused, they threaten to visit homes or workplaces in order to recover the supposed debt that is owed. In some cases, the victim is also threatened with arrest. From the reports Action Fraud has received, this type of fraud is presently occurring throughout the UK.

It is important to recognise that there are key differences between the various entities who seek to settle debts or outstanding fees in England and Wales. These differences range from the type of debt they will enforce to the legal powers they possess. To learn more, please take a look at some of the helpful information and links on the Step Change Debt Charity website;

Protect Yourself
  • Make vigorous checks if you ever get a cold call. Bailiffs for example, should always be able to provide you with a case number and warrant number, along with their name and the court they are calling from; make a note of all details provided to you.
  • If you receive a visit from a bailiff, they must always identify themselves as a Court Bailiff at the earliest possible opportunity. Ask to see their identity card which they must carry to prove who they are, this card shows their photograph and identity number. They will also carry the physical warrant showing the debt and endorsed with a court seal.
  • If you work for a business and receive a call or visit, 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 make payment suggesting they can then be reimbursed by their employer when in reality the debt is non-existent.
  • Exercise caution believing someone is genuine because you’ve found something on the internet; fraudsters could easily create fake online profiles to make you believe them.
  • Double check with the court, company or public body they claim to work for to confirm whether the call is legitimate; if you use a landline make sure you hear the dialling tone prior to dialling as the caller could still be on the line and you could potentially speak to the fraudster(s) to confirm the non-existent debt. Also be sure to independently search for a telephone number to call; never use a number provided by the caller without carrying out your own research.
  • Do not feel rushed or intimidated to make a decision based on a phone call. Take five and listen to your instincts.
  • If you know you have a debt, keep in regular contact with your creditor and be sure to establish the debt type at the earliest opportunity if you are not aware. This will help you to understand who might be in contact with you regarding any repayments or arrears.
You can report suspicious calls like these to Action Fraud by visiting or by calling 0300 123 2040.
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Crime Prevention Advice for Darker Nights

 At home
    • Keep front and back doors locked at all times and keep keys and valuables out of sight and reach from cat flaps, letterboxes and downstairs doors and windows
    • Close, and ideally lock, all windows when you’re not in the room – approximately one in four burglaries in the county still happen because doors have been left unlocked or windows left open
    • If it’s dark before you get home, use timer switches to turn on the lights – change the times that the lights come on, to create the illusion that someone is moving around inside the house. Plug-in dusk-to-dawn lights are also popular
    • Make sure your door is well lit and fully visible from the street – dusk-to-dawn lamp adaptors are available from DIY stores
    • Check existing lighting is in good working order and replace any faulty equipment – remember to check batteries in torches and smoke alarms
    • Keep shrubbery and hedges at the front of the house pruned to below one metre – remove any cover for a burglar to work unseen and give your neighbours every chance to spot something suspicious
    • Keep curtains closed at night – if you are away, ask a trusted neighbour to close them for you, and open them again in the morning
    • On cold mornings, never leave your car unattended with the engine running to defrost the windows
    • Assess your property’s perimeter and check it is secure. Cut back overgrown hedges and repair broken fences and gates
    • Secure sheds and outbuildings with good padlocks and consider fitting alarms. Lock all tools and ladders away securely

When out and about

  • When out in your car, look out for Park Mark accredited car parks and remove all items from your vehicle when you leave it
  • Don’t leave your keys in the ignitions, even when filling up with fuel or popping into the shop
  • De-clutter your handbag – take out only what you need and avoid carrying large amounts of cash
  • When you’re out shopping, keep all bags firmly closed and on your person at all times
  • Carry wallets and phones in inside pockets of jackets or coats, not in the back pocket of trousers
  • When using your credit or debit card, shield your PIN and take the time to make sure you safely put away your purse or wallet
  • Never leave your bag unattended on the back of trolleys or pushchairs
  • Don’t be tempted to return to your car and drop off your shopping bags – keep them with you or take them home
  • If you see anything suspicious, or have an information about crime or criminals, call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111
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Avoid Phishing – Advice

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Avoid being scammed when using an ATM

When getting cash out this weekend here are some things you should look out for at an ATM to avoid getting scammed.

Look at this video on You Tube

Action Fraud is reminding consumers of the importance of protecting themselves at a cash machine, following a number of reports of suspicious incidents.

Fraud at ATMs is rare but it is important all cardholders are aware of the importance of covering their PIN and staying safe at a cash machine.

The most common types of incident at an ATM are card entrapment and card skimming. To trap a card, fraudsters insert a device into the machine to prevent a card from being ejected. The fraudster then removes the card once you have left the ATM.

To skim a card, fraudsters insert a device into an ATM which will copy the magnetic stripe details from your card.

So they can make use of your card details, fraudsters must obtain your PIN. To do this they will either watch you at an ATM, known as shoulder surfing, or may use a camera. Therefore, it is very important you cover your PIN at an ATM.

Financial Fraud Action UK recommends the following to stay safe at an ATM:

  • Stand close to the terminal. Always shield the keypad with your free hand, purse or wallet, and your body, to avoid anything or anyone seeing you enter your PIN. This will protect your PIN from anyone who might be looking over your shoulder, and also help to keep your PIN safe if a fraudster has set up a hidden camera to film the keypad.
  • Stay alert and put your personal safety first. If someone is crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction and alert a member of staff. Do not accept help from seemingly well-meaning strangers and never allow yourself to be distracted.
  • Have your card company’s 24 hour contact number stored in your mobile phone. If your card is retained, stay at the ATM and contact your bank immediately.
  • If you spot anything unusual about the machine, or there are signs of tampering, do not use it.
  • If you think you have been a victim of fraud, you should contact your bank immediately.
  • Generally ATMs are very safe and more than £1 billion is withdrawn from ATMs every month. By contrast, last year £32.7 million was lost to ATM fraud, a very small proportion of the overall amount of money withdrawn.

    To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool..


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Buying and selling a car privately

If you are buying a car privately, there are now several tools online that will help you do some preparation before buying.

  • To find out about a vehicle ‘s MOT history go to this Government site . This site will tell you of failure and advisory notices, along with a mileage history.
  • This site will tell you if a car is MOT’d and taxed.
  • You should also really look at getting a  vehicle’s status report (HPI check) and these are available from various organisations such as the RAC, HPI etc. There is a charge for these but they are really worth the effort. They will give you details of any outstanding finance, exports/imports, colour changes, mileage discrepancies, is it written off, interested parties and if stolen. Different companies charge different prices – so shop around and make sure you get the deal that gives you ALL the information. The report should also give an estimate of the vehicles sale value both privately or from a dealer, along with running costs and buying advice. Prices for the report start at around £15.
  • The background information is worth getting before you perhaps even look at the car.


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Citizens Advice Bureau – New Contact Details

Citizens Advice Bureau have new contact details. Their postal address is:

Central and East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, 7/8 Mercers Row, Northampton, Northamptonshire NN1 2QL

CAB Poster


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Online Auction Warning

Fraudsters are targeting people to list items on their behalf on popular online auction sites. The scam involves a job offer to sell desirable items at below market value and receive money from any potential buyers. The ‘work from home’ job will usually require retaining 10% of the money received as a “salary” and fraudsters will ask that the remaining funds are sent to them via bank transfer or money transfer.

In these cases the proposed items being sold do not exist and are therefore not dispatched to the proposed buyers. This will usually result in the buyer making a complaint concerning the individual who has listed the items. This can result in your bank account being closed by the bank for suspected fraud or money laundering and being held accountable for reimbursing the potential buyers.

Protect yourself:

  • Do not list items on online auction sites on behalf of others you do not know or trust.
  • Be vigilant of ‘work from home’ jobs which involve passing funds through your bank account.
  • Meet face to face with any potential employer
  • Question job offers which seem “too good to be true”.

 If you believe you have become the victim of a fraud or cyber crime, or have received a suspicious email, find out how to report it here:

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