OFT warns consumers about "debt sale" scams

Published ¤ 24/06/2009

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The OFT is warning consumers not to be taken in by businesses claiming to help them become debt free by "buying" or "selling on" their debts.

The warning follows a significant increase in the number of adverts on the internet and in newspapers from debt and claims management companies that misleadingly state they can take over liability for debts or write off debts by purchasing consumers' credit agreements.
In fact the law does not allow the sale of debt without the lender's permission and so businesses that suggest otherwise are making clearly misleading claims. Brokers who introduce clients to debt and claims management companies that say that they can "buy" and "sell on" consumer debts are also misleading consumers.
Consumers need to be aware that if they "sell" their debts to one of these businesses, either directly or through a broker, they will still be liable for their original repayment obligations as well as losing the money they paid for this false service.
Consumers will also still be subject to any debt collection activity and negative credit scoring associated with the original debt.
The principal regulator for claims management companies is the Ministry of Justice. Those businesses that operate in the credit/debt sector also need to be licensed by the OFT. Some of the firms offering these services do not have consumer credit licences and the OFT is working in partnership with local trading standards services to prosecute them for unlicensed trading. Formal licensing enforcement action has already been initiated against licensed companies whose advertising or websites are making these misleading claims.
Ray Watson, OFT Director of Credit, said: "Like most scams, when something looks too good to be true, it usually is, and this is certainly the case here. You cannot simply sell on your debt and its liabilities, and businesses that make misleading claims to the contrary are just trying to take advantage of consumers' distress.
"The OFT will not hesitate to take swift action against businesses which deliberately mislead consumers."
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