Warning about debt advice firm impersonators
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said ‘National-Debt-Helpline’ and ‘National Debtlines’ appear to be impersonating the charity-run debt advice service National Debtline which is free for consumers to use.
Almost all firms and individuals offering, promoting or selling financial services or products in the UK have to be authorised by the FCA, and the regulator belies National Debtlines has been providing financial services or products without its authorisation.
The latest warnings are part of a wider problem of commercial firms masquerading to be legitimate debt advice charities. In 2019, the FCA issued similar warnings about “clone firms” impersonating both National Debtline and StepChange Debt Charity.
The Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, is worried that firms not authorised by the FCA may provide inaccurate and unsuitable advice for people seeking debt advice.
The charity is working with the Money and Pensions Service and other debt advice charities to urge regulators to take further action.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, says: “The government needs to give the FCA the power to regulate the wider activity of these ‘lead generator’ companies – to stop these copycat sites leading people into receiving the wrong advice and making it harder to deal with their situation
“At a time when millions of household’s have been financially impacted by Covid-19, it is more important than ever that people are able to access the free, impartial debt advice they need as soon as possible. Impersonator websites like these make that far more difficult.
“If you are searching for debt advice online, check the details of any links you are clicking on to make sure they are those of a genuine debt advice charity. You can check if any company is a registered charity on the Charity Commission website.”
The correct web address for National Debtline is www.nationaldebtline.org.