Following the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and government guidance, those who were owed money and obtained a County Court Judgment (CCJ) against a debtor have seen that a number of enforcement procedures are currently not available. High Court Enforcement Officers and County Court Bailiffs will not visit premises during the current lockdown, although they have and will continue to make contact with debtors by other means to seek payment such as over the phone.
Even prior to the Coronavirus Pandemic and the subsequent changes brought in we had become aware of scammers phoning members of the public and businesses, posing as County Court bailiffs, High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) and Certificated Enforcement Agents (CEAs). Now that contact by phone is the norm for the time being, it has never been more important to be on your guard at all times.
The majority of the scams relate to bogus HCEOs and CEAs, known by many as “Bailiffs” or “Sheriffs”. This article will therefore concentrate on HCEOs and CEAs as this is the most prevalent at present, but be warned the scam could equally involve a bogus County Court Bailiff.
During these calls, the fraudsters claim that the person owes money, and demands that they transfer funds into a bank account that day. Pressure and urgency is added to the situation to cause panic by claiming they are on their way to remove possessions or vehicles from the person’s home. This is a common ploy in a lot of scams and is designed to make people make uncharacteristic impulse decisions many of which are regretted quite quickly once that person has had the opportunity to reflect on it. Of course, by that time it is too late as the money has usually left the scammers bank account never to be seen again.
To enable a HCEO and CEA to be able to visit your property there must be valid CCJ in place or an Enforcement Order for example for Council Tax arrears or a Council (as opposed to private) unpaid parking fine in place. To obtain a CCJ the person who claims you owe money to them will have to have brought a claim through the Courts and been successful in that Claim. It is unlikely that this will have happened without your knowledge especially if you have lived at the same address for a while as you should have received paperwork from the Court. The process is different in the Magistrates Court, but you should have received letters regarding the matter beforehand.
Once a CCJ has been obtained, the Claimants would need to transfer the CCJ to the High Court and obtain a Writ of Control. This is the Court Order which allows the HCEO to recover the money.
Once obtained, The HCEO must send a letter allowing you at least 7 days before they attend setting out the way in which you can pay the sums owing.
If you are not aware of owing any money, have not received any Court papers nor have you received the 7 days letter, there is a chance it is a scam.
If anyone claiming to be a county court bailiff, an HCEO or CEA calls asking for this information, you should not make any payment and not provide your bank details.
You should end the call and contact:
- your local County Court, if the caller says they are an HMCTS County Court bailiff. Contact details for County Courts are on GOV.UK
- your local Magistrates Court. Contact details for Magistrates Courts are on GOV.UK.
- the company the person claims to work for, if the caller says they are a HCEO or CEA. Contact the High Court Enforcement Officers Association or the Civil Enforcement Officers Association (CIVEA) for more information and to verify they are who they say they are.
We would warn against using any number provided by the caller and advise you look the number up for the company yourself.
Finally, If it doesn’t feel right, then there is a good chance that it isn’t!