Making sure it's us
When you're searching for free debt advice online you need to feel confident that the organisation you get in touch with is genuine. Unfortunately, there are lots of online adverts for organisations that pretend to be a debt advice charity like us. Some will make false claims of being 'government backed' or offer to 'write off 90% of your debts'.
Is their advice really free and are they authorised to give advice?
What should I look out for when searching for debt advice?
Your personal information
Be careful about sharing your personal information. Debt advice charities will never cold call you and will not pass your personal information on to private companies.
- Is it a paid for Ad?
If you're using a search engine, avoid results that have Ad next to them. Ads appear at the very top of a search engine results page. Fake companies will often pay money to appear at the top of the page.
- Is it the right web address?
If the web address isn't www.businessdebtline.org then it isn't us. A fake company might use a web address that is very similar to ours.
- Are they a registered charity?
You can check if any company is a registered charity on the Charity Commission website.
- Is it our logo?
Our logo is at the top of every webpage on our website. If this is not the logo you can see, it's not us.
- FCA warnings about clone firms
You can check the FCA news page to see if the company appears in the warnings list. The FCA calls these clone firms. They have already issued a warning about a firm pretending to be National Debtline.
- Are they authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)?
All debt advice charities must be authorised by the FCA. Private companies must also be authorised by the FCA to give debt advice. If they are, they will normally say so somewhere on their website. This information is normally in their 'about us' or 'terms and conditions' pages. They should also have an FCA authorisation number. You can also check the FCA register to see if they are on there.
- Are the contact details genuine?
Check if there is a registered postal address on the website. Is it for the same company? The contact details should be for the same company. Be wary if the only way of contacting the company is through an online form.
- Do they really offer free debt advice?
Our advice is always free. Some firms pretend to give free debt advice. Read the information at the bottom of the website home page or the “about us” page. It may tell you that the company does not give advice and just passes your details on to another company who will contact you instead.
Other things you should consider
Don't trust glowing reviews
Fake companies will often have perfect reviews on their websites and on some independent review sites. If the online reviews all say similar things and there are only a few reviews, perhaps from one source, they may not be trustworthy.
Be careful when sharing your data
Be very careful about sharing your personal information. We would never ask you to share your details on Whatsapp, Facebook or other social media. These websites may just act as an “introducer” and pass your personal information to other commercial firms. You may have no control over what happens to your data or who contacts you once they have your details.
What if the advert is on Facebook?
Facebook has launched a UK scam ads reporting tool, supported by a dedicated team. You can flag an advert you believe to be a scam or misleading by clicking the three dots in the top right corner of every ad on Facebook and pressing 'Report ad'.
If it sounds too good to be true it probably is!
You can get more information about scams on the FCA website.