StepChange clone company scam warning: Step to Change, Step Changing and other sites to watch out for

StepChange has warned of unauthorised clone firms tricking people out of money by pretending to be a debt charity. Here’s how to spot a fake site.

StepChange is warning people to be on their guard against clone firms, who are imitating it by using altered versions of its name such ‘Step to Change’ and ‘Step Changing.’

Usually when we warn about scams doing the rounds, scammers are impersonating banks, HMRC and even supermarkets, so this particular scam is a little different.

StepChange says clone firms aim to get hold of your personal data – or even your money – by pretending to be a debt advice service.

Once a scammer has your data, they could sell it to other businesses, try and access your bank account or other credit products, and even attempt to fraudulently take out credit in your name.

How can I tell if I'm using a genuine debt charity site?

Clone firms may appear at the very top of a search engine, as unscrupulous scammers are happy to pay money to get your attention quickly.

“These companies play on the fact that many consumers don’t realise that the first organisations listed in search results are adverts,” warns StepChange on its website.  

Clone firms may have a professional looking website and discuss a range of solutions to debt problems, with interactive tools and even reviews of their service.

So, how can you tell if you’re using a genuine company?

StepChange recommends:

  • Checking the web address – if you’re looking for StepChange and the site is not, it may be a clone firm
  • Looking for the logo – if it’s not the logo used on the official StepChange page, it’s not them
  • Checking the website to make sure it offers full contact details and the firm is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office
  • Checking the FCA register as StepChange is registered as a ‘Foundation for Credit Counselling’. You can search for other sites and if any information doesn’t appear, you’re probably dealing with a clone firm
  • Looking at what they are saying as phrases such as a ‘Government-backed debt advice scheme to write off your debts’ are a red flag

Always remember, StepChange will never contact you unless you contact them first, message you via WhatsApp, charge you for debt advice or refer you to a third party for a repayment plan.* 

If you get contacted by a clone firm, StepChange recommends getting in touch, so they can help stop these firms from taking advantage of people in need of debt advice.

*In rare cases, we refer clients based in Scotland and Northern Ireland to authorised insolvency providers in their countries. We give full details of these to the client when they’ve agreed to proceed with the relevant solution. If a client who is self-employed gets in touch with us, we would refer them to fellow debt charity Business Debtline for specialised free and confidential debt advice.

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