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Have you been misled by unscrupulous debt advice adverts?

Have you ever received bad debt advice or feel like you’ve been misled into a particular ‘solution’? We want to hear from you.

As the cost of living rises and is set to soar further this year, increasing numbers of people are sadly likely to find themselves struggling with unmanageable debts just to keep the lights on and bread in the cupboard. But if you were in problem debt, would you know where to turn for help?

We’ve uncovered evidence that people seeking qualified debt help are highly likely to be misled by unscrupulous adverts on social media and search engines. In 2020 we exposed an organisation repeatedly posing as debt charity StepChange on Google. Shockingly we are still finding firms doing this well over a year later. (The real StepChange can be found here.)

In other cases, online adverts for debt help make misleading claims or wrongly imply affiliations with the government or Money Advice Service – the Advertising Standards Authority has recently banned four such ads.

Individual Voluntary Arrangements and Protected Trust Deeds

Much of the wrongdoing is focused on the feverish promotion of Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and Protected Trust Deeds (PTDs) – two debt solutions which are highly lucrative for the insolvency practitioners (IPs) who charge fees in order to set them up.

IVAs can be a good solution for some people, but we’ve seen evidence that they’re often sold to people for whom other solutions would have been far cheaper, quicker and more appropriate – albeit less lucrative for the IP.

The IVA failure rate has risen in recent years, suggesting more of them are being set up inappropriately in the first place. 

We want to hear from you

We’re investigating the problem and would like to hear from people who feel they’ve received bad advice about their debt or feel they were misled into a particular solution – especially if you sought help through online adverts.

Is this you? Drop me a line at faye.lipson@which.co.uk. Your story will be treated sensitively and in confidence. 

And for legitimate sources of comprehensive debt advice, take a look at our guide


My only experience is phone calls with foreign accents that are difficult to understand from the ‘National Debt Helpline’, ‘National Debt Help’, ‘National Debt Department or ‘National Debt Freedom’ who continue even when I say I am not the person they ask for.

They quote a government program that sounds something like IPA or IBA.

Sometimes they say they can write off all my debts.

Sometimes they say can get me debt-free and ask if I have any debts at the moment. I say no and if they can’t help me with outstanding bills, they go through anything that might be paid for monthly like broadband or tv and even old accounts. As my other half said at the end of one call, ‘she was really scraping the barrel’.

Looking up the phone numbers confirms they are scammers which I add my experience to.

My son’s company moved from a walkable distance away to around 15 miles away but very difficult to get there by public transport. He borrowed to buy and insure a car but around 18 months later the engine blew up the car overheated when the radiator leaked. He borrowed more money as it cost him around 5,000 to have the car towed to a local garage and have a new engine fitted. He then lost his job and his debts escalated. He contacted a firm of solictiors who dealt with debt matters who then sold his debt onto a specialist debt firm. They arranged an IVA and as he had by then got another job he paid every month. The IVA finished after 5 years, but the debt firm’s fees were so high that all of the money he paid was taken up by their fees, and none of the financial companies received any money!