Fraud alert - Beware the bogus bailiff

A client called me the other day after putting the phone down on someone purporting to be a bailiff. The would be bailiff said they were “on their way to enforce a county court judgment” and offered the chance to pay a smaller sum than that they would want if they turned up at their office.

On its face, the call sounded reasonably plausible to anyone who’s not encountered a county court bailiff or High Court enforcement officer before, except for the fact that the caller said he was on his way from Grimsby and would be in Hertfordshire in “about 20 minutes”! That was enough for the client to smell a rat though. They paid nothing and, needless to say, no one turned up brandishing a judgment.

The more informed will know that High Court enforcement officers (who execute the majority of county court judgments) never ring to tell you they’re on their way for two very good reasons. First, they make money from attending at a debtor’s premises. Secondly, notice gives debtors the chance to remove assets so they can’t be seized and sold to pay off a judgment.

You do get notice from a county court bailiff, but it will be in writing and not by telephone.

In either case, they don’t do deals for early payment! Their job is to pitch up at a judgment debtor’s address, secure full payment or seize goods to cover the judgment’s value and their fees. They will negotiate if a debtor makes an offer but only by taking instructions from whoever’s instructed them and I’ve never heard of case where they invite offers before they arrive. It’s simply not how they, or the system, works.

Action points

If you get a call from someone who says they’re looking to enforce a judgment, the first thing to do is check to see if there really is a judgment that can be enforced. It’s not unheard of for even the best run business suddenly to find a default judgment’s been registered against it for a number of reasons – usually an internal administrative foul up that’s led to the time for responding to a claim running out or the claim being served at an old registered office.

You can check for judgments online with the Registry Trust here: https://www.trustonline.org.uk/ or using your own credit checking provider. 

You should also ask for the caller’s details and a number for their office and check whether they’re genuine, but beware of the risk that any number may go through to an accomplice.

A genuine bailiff/enforcement office give you will contact details though and say who they’re working for. If the caller says they’re a:

This scam was around a while ago, but I haven’t heard of it being used recently. As it seems to be back on the fraudsters’ agenda a warning note to your staff that tells them how to deal with such calls and who to escalate them to would be sensible.

CONTACT SIMON

If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or a Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Simon Walsh on 01727 798085.

© SA LAW 2019

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