There have been reports recently about a new scam where a fraudster purports to be a bailiff and demands money to be paid to him.
Indeed, Langleys has been consulted recently by a client which was faced with such a potential scam.
The company (or an individual) receives a telephone call from someone purporting to be a bailiff. They explain that they are in possession of a court warrant to attend the business premises, or home, of the victim in order to collect payment of the debt or to seize assets. Often, they will also:-
Explain that the warrant was issued by the court (often the Northampton County Court).
Give the name of the company which they claim the money is owed to;
Give the amount of the debt (often several thousand pounds);
Tell you that they are approximately 20 minutes away from your premises; and
- Explain that they require payment over the telephone in order to avoid the bailiff attending. Alternatively, they may give a telephone number which they claim is a court telephone number and invite you to call it.
Such a call is, naturally, going to cause both confusion and concern to the victim. The victim is unlikely to have ever heard of the debt but will be concerned to avoid bailiffs attending their premises.
The purported bailiff then invites the victim to make payment over the telephone, or they may provide a bogus telephone number and suggest that you telephone the court’s “Bailiffs and Warrants Team” to make payment. Often, they will say that the payment will be held in a client account, or an escrow account, in order to allow the victim to check the validity of the debt.
Once the payment is made, the scammer and the money disappear, never to be seen again.
What do Genuine Bailiffs Usually Do?
Each bailiff may have a slightly different way of operating. However, their usual procedure is to send a formal written notice warning you that they will attend your premises at some point in the near future to enforce a court order. They would then attend without any further warning. When they turn up, they will have all of the correct documentation including a copy of the court order along with the court claim number. They will also carry proper I.D which you can use to verify that the bailiff is genuine.
Tell-Tale Signs of a Scam
It is impossible to give any guarantees that the “bailiff” is genuine or bogus. However, you should be very suspicious if:-
- The bailiff telephones you shortly before attending. The element of surprise is key for bailiffs; why would they give you the opportunity to lock the doors and remove your possessions from the site?
- They give you a telephone number for the court’s “bailiffs office.” This number will often be bogus and the person you speak to will be part of the scam.
- They give you bank account details to make a payment over the telephone, and assure you that they will give you a receipt once the payment has been made.
- They give you a court warrant number, but refuse to give you a court claim number. The warrant number is rarely used by court officials. By refusing to give a court claim number, you cannot verify the matter with the court direct as the court are unable to assist without the claim number.
- You telephone the person who made the alleged court claim against you, and they explain that they have no knowledge of making a claim.
- Your carry out a credit check against your business (or yourself) and find that there are no outstanding judgments registered against you.
If you are in any doubt as to whether the bailiff is genuine, do not pay a penny to them until you have satisfactory proof that they are genuine. The best way to do so is to see a court order showing the debt, obtain the court’s telephone number using an online search and then call the court to check. Any genuine bailiff will be happy for you to check the validity of the debt, as doing so helps them to do their job.
We are able to assist if you find yourself in the position of receiving a call from a bailiff, whether genuine or bogus. Please contact Adrian Lyon in dispute resolution at Langleys.