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Are you worried about fake websites? We know that there’s no shortage of debt advice companies in the UK. Some, like us, offer free advice and free debt management plans, whilst others offer free advice but charge both a set-up fee and monthly fee to manage your plan.
Whilst we wouldn’t recommend using a debt advice provider that charges you to set up and maintain your plan, it’s essential that whoever you choose to help you with your debts, you ensure that they’re a regulated, reputable and trusted company, and not a phishing, scam or fake website designed to take your details and run.
Don’t be fooled by fake websites
Nobody, of course, deliberately sets out to give their details to a fake or scam website. The problem is that often these might appear, on the face of it, very similar in design and layout to the real website they’re impersonating. This can trick people who’re looking for genuine debt help and cause them to give away details about their identity, how much debt they’re in, and even their bank details.
Rachel Duffey, PayPlan Chief Executive, said, “PayPlan provides free debt advice and solutions to over 120,000 individuals in the UK each year. Over a third of our clients are classed as vulnerable, many of those are suicidal, and all of them call us feeling stressed and confused about their options.
“We are one of only three free-to-consumer solutions providers in the debt advice sector. The market faces increasing demand, insufficient capacity and, while those who charge high fees to clients make large profits, for those providing free services, trading conditions are challenging. As such we, and other free providers, are constantly impersonated by companies who pop up, purport to be us, rip off clients and then exit.”
Rachel continued, “We receive phone calls on a daily basis from clients who believe they are dealing with us but are actually contracted to another company passing themselves off as PayPlan. It is hugely distressing for these individuals when they realise what has happened.”
Some notable fake sites we’ve noticed recently…
As an example of the kinds of fake websites we’re talking about, we’ve included the addresses of two websites impersonating us in an attempt to trick people looking for help with their debts. The first is https://payplan-advice.co.uk/. Aside from the fact that the web address is clearly very similar to our own, anyone looking for our debt advice page could mistakenly go to this website due to the URLs being so similar – ours is https://www.payplan.com/advice/.
The second website we’d like to warn you about is https://payplans.org.uk/. Again, this website is clearly trying to trick people looking for debt help by using a similar colour scheme to our website, having an almost identical name to ours and copying our website’s content (albeit badly). If you were to follow the phone enquiries for either of these websites, you’ll find yourself speaking to someone who’ll try to coerce you into signing up for a debt plan without even offering any form of advice.
How to easily spot a fake website
It can be hard to know what to look for when you’re trying to find out if a website is legitimate or not. The two fake websites we’ve listed above can be identified if you look through them thoroughly; not only have they got spelling errors and mistakes, but they’ve also got very limited content. That isn’t to say, however, that a more convincing fake website might pop up in the future, and potentially trick people into giving away their information.
Fortunately, there’s a very quick and easy way to check if you’re dealing with a reputable web address or not.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the governing body in the UK which regulates all the UK’s legitimate debt advice providers, and ensures that they’re adhering to financial law and regulations. Visiting their website will allow you to search for a company to see if they’re real and safe to work with, or a scam site looking to steal your details.
Searching for ‘PayPlan’ on the FCA website will show that our site is genuine, and sites like https://payplan-advice.co.uk/ aren’t to be trusted – you’ll see a red warning sign next to their name accompanied with the word ‘unauthorised’ so you can see that it’s a scam site. Whatever debt management company you choose to help you with your debts, always check on the FCA’s website first to guarantee they’re who they say they are – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For free, award winning (and legitimate) debt advice, call our helpline team today on 0800 280 2816 or get debt help online. Our opening hours are 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.