While a lot of cold calls about PPI are perfectly legitimate and harmless, there is an unfortunate undercurrent of scams attached to the industry.
It’s easy to see why people are drawn in by these scammers, as an average payout of around £2,750 makes it very tempting to accept an offer of “guaranteed” PPI reclaim. However, in reality no claim can be guaranteed and you’d be hard-pressed to find a legitimate claims management company that promises victory or reward.
Spotting a scam early on and avoiding it can save you from being a victim of fraud and losing hundreds of pounds, but legitimate claims management firms can end up being expensive in itself.
PPI can be a useful product when sold properly, as it’s designed to protect borrowers if they ever become unable to work, whether through sickness, accident or unemployment. Unfortunately, there’s been a history of mis-selling in the industry as banks look to turn a profit.
Concerns over PPI mis-selling were raised as early as the late-90s, but it was only in 2005 that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) launched a formal investigation and the scale of mis-sold PPI became clear.
Many banks were forced to issue apologies and agreed to pay compensation to anyone that had been mis-sold PPI. Since the initial report, billions of pounds have been issued as compensation, but there are still billions more to be reclaimed.
Towards the end of 2015, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA, which had been introduced as the FSA’s successor and replacement, was looking to draw a line under the scandal. As such, they implemented a deadline for claims, meaning there isn’t much time left to claim back money owed.
It can be hard to spot a scam, particularly when the scammers are well-informed and confident. Scammers tend to target those without the time or energy required to make a claim by themselves, but do not necessarily target more vulnerable people such as the elderly.
Those most likely to be caught up in this kind of scam are busy professionals, usually between the ages of 25 and 54, as they often are unable to set aside the time to claim themselves.
It is important to remain aware of these scam calls, and wary of any call promising “guaranteed rewards”. This is especially true in cases where the caller claims to have done all of the groundwork already, and are waiting for the payout.
It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between scams and legitimate companies getting in touch, but there are a few signs that could help you to judge the legitimacy of the offer.
Asking for payment upfront
No legitimate PPI company will ever ask a client to make payments in advance.
February 2016 saw the Ministry of justice (MOJ) announced their plans to impose a ban on upfront fees for third-party companies. However, scammers continue to use this method, with them requesting payment in advance which they claim will be used to cover administrative or legal costs. Unsurprisingly, as soon as they receive the money, they are never heard from again.
There also seems to be preferences for certain methods of payments, as scammers want money in the easiest, quickest and least traceable way possible. If a cold caller asks for an instant payment, such as a bank transfer, or payment via hard-to-trace methods like PaySafe, it’s likely that they are attempting to scam you.
Any legitimate claims management company will work out their fees as a percentage of compensation received by the claimant, and this amount will be deducted at the end of the process.
Requests for personal information
It is advised that you do not disclose personal information, such as bank account details, over the telephone, internet or in person. If you’re ever unsure about a caller, ask them for a telephone number.
Scammers tend to be unwilling to allow you to contact them, as it makes them possible to trace. Whereas a legitimate company will happily provide you with the required details, as they have nothing to hide.
Types of scam
It is worth remembering that scams are not only carried out over the telephone and can be in the form of emails, letters and text messages, or even face to face with a door to door ‘salesman’.
A 2016 YouGov survey found that 90 per cent of people in the UK receive ‘nuisance calls’ at least once a month, and 67 per cent of participants said they received unwanted calls regarding PPI.
This culture of cold calling has only made it easier for scammers to act, with nearly 20 per cent of people surveyed saying they had been targeted by scams; roughly a third of those targeted said they had lost money as a result.
Often scams involve someone pretending to be from a government organisation or they claim to be working for a legitimate company. They then tell the person they’re speaking to that there is a guaranteed payout waiting, and that they just require payment to cover the fees.
This tends to be a fairly big sign that the call is not legitimate, as official bodies will never call people to offer PPI reclaims. You can also tell that these calls are fraudulent as claims management companies are unable to make a compensation claim without written consent.
Text message scams
Sometimes scams will utilise text messages, with these usually involving a text stating a compensation amount. Replying “yes” to this message will initiate the claim.
However, it is against the law for people to be contacted in this way by a company. As such, unless you have previously consented to being part of a company’s text messaging campaign, this message probably represents a scam.
Be particularly careful with these messages, as it’s possible that responding to one can allow for your details to be passed on to other companies.
Sometimes a scam takes the form of door-to-door visits, in which a person will assess if an individual is eligible to reclaim PPI. These will then be contacted later and asked to make a payment to complete application.
This request for advanced payment should signal a scam, and you should terminate the interaction at this point.
Reporting a scam
If you have been a victim of a PPI scam then don’t panic. Contact your local police service or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 as soon as you can. Action Fraud are an organisation dedicated to internet crime and fraud and are run in conjunction with the City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
Of course, some of the calls that you receive about PPI reclaims will be legitimate, and claims management make use of cold calling as much as any other company. They also often employ the same strategy and language as scammers, promising guaranteed payouts with little effort.
However, you should not assume that just because they’re a real company it means they’re harmless. A number of claims companies have come under scrutiny for their charges and services, with watchdogs believing them to be dishonest.
Many of the leading authorities on PPI reclaims recommend against using claims management companies, but many people continue to do so. Unfortunately, this means they may be at risk of being ripped off and anyone considering doing so should be fully aware of the risks.
Overcharging for services
As satisfying as it may be to receive compensation that you weren’t initially aware that you were entitled to, be aware that using a claims management company will cost you some of this money.
The average payout for PPI reclaims is in the thousands of pounds, and there have been many issues over how much of this fee claims companies should receive. Although the claims process costs nothing, companies were charging as much as 30 per cent of the compensation.
Following proposals from the Ministry of Justice, companies can no longer receive any more than 25 per cent of the overall amount.
What do I get for my money?
Many PPI claiming companies claim to have “high success rates”, “dedicated claims handlers” and “specialist solicitors”, however the FOS has said that “there is no need to pay a third party to make a complaint.”
The process of making a claim is actually quite simple and free of charge, as banks need to follow strict laws when processing complaints, so some argue that there is no need to pay for a “dedicated claims handler”. There is also no need to spend money on “specialist solicitors” as when a bank refuses the claim, all you need to do is pass the complaint onto the FOS and they will do the rest for you.
Over the latter half of 2016, 51 per cent of all claims referred to the FOS were upheld in the claimants’ favour. If your case is decided by the FOS to be a fair claim and you are entitled to compensation, the process will have cost you nothing, unlike using a “no win no fee” company. However, you do need to have the time, know the process and have the patience to handle claim rejections while pursuing the claim and be able to calculate the correct amount of redress.
Will I be called by my bank?
When the accusations of mis-sold PPI were first made, banks fought against the rulings, but have since accepted blame and set aside billions of pounds to compensate those effected. Current estimates believe that the scandal will end up costing the banking industry £40 billion.
The British Banking Association, the body who defended the UK’s banks at the time, said:
“The banking industry is committed to regaining the trust of all its customers. Our members are fully aware of the responsibility this places on them to work constructively with customers, providing redress where mistakes have been made.”
However, will any of them inform you of mis-sold PPI or advise you to make a claim? No.
Luckily, the majority of them have guidance for making a claim on their websites, and many have a team dedicated to the matter that can be contacted directly.
The issue is set to continue
We are far from the end of this issue, and with the deadline announced people are increasingly desperate to make their money from the saga. This unfortunately does mean that cold calls will continue into the foreseeable future.
While no-one is fond of the practice, cold calling remains the favoured and most effective method of gaining customers for these companies.