£4,000 bailiff scam call led to terrified woman hiding car and furniture

Jackie Heffer Cooke

Jackie Heffer Cooke almost fell for a county court bailiff scam after being told she owed £4,000 - Credit: Archant/Getty Images

A woman who received a phone call threatening bailiffs were coming to seize items worth £4,000 hid her car and moved furniture before discovering it was an elaborate scam.

Jackie Heffer Cooke, 49, said her family suffered “three hours of hell” after being told she owed the money because she had failed to answer in a county court case.

The professional sounding caller claimed to be a certified bailiff and said a team would be at her door in two hours to collect debts relating to a website service subscription that she had failed to cancel. 

She was given a reference number and phone contact to call Derby County Court which when she rang was answered by a second person who confirmed the claims. 

Both people knew personal details including her family’s former address where court summons had supposedly been sent and the name of her former business.

Phone call from unknown number

Jackie Heffer Cooke received a call from someone with personal details claiming she owned money over a county court judgement - Credit: Getty Images

“It was really frightening because it was so believable,” said Ms Heffer Cooke, who lives in Wymondham.

So panicked by the prospect of bailiffs on her doorstep she hid her car and moved garden furniture into the locked house to try to avoid them being seized.

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Told she could stop the process by challenging the judgement she was sent an email form headed Derby County Court.  

But she became suspicious after being given the details of a supposed solicitor who she should send the money to and being told she could then reclaim it if her counterclaim was successful.

Jackie Heffer-Cooke

Jackie Heffer-Cooke is warning people about scam phone calls and emails from people claiming to be bailiffs - Credit: Archant

“At that point I started to question - who is this person?” she said. “That’s when they called back and really started putting on the pressure, saying the bailiffs were half an hour away.”

After calling the real number for Derby County Court they confirmed it was a scam and the reference numbers and supposed case details were fake.

Ms Heffer Cooke, who runs a yoga company, is now warning others not to fall for the scam.

“It was horrendous and so devious,” she said. “It was an extremely believable scripted set-up. Luckily at the last minute we switched on to it not being what it seemed.

“It’s awful imagining this happening to my 90-year-old dad or other vulnerable people who might fall for it.”

Example of scam county court enforcement email letter

Example of scam county court enforcement email letter - Credit: Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice and the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) said it was aware of scammers posing as county court bailiffs trying to force householders into making immediate payments.

It warned people often receive an email followed by a telephone call appearing to come from an official phone line.

The HCEOA warned: “Whilst we may contact you by phone to discuss a warrant of control and will offer to take debit or credit card payments over the phone, we will never telephone to ask for your bank details or to ask you to make a bank transfer using your sort code and account number.”

It advises people to immediately contact the local county court.

• Anyone who believes they have been a victim of this fraud or attempted fraud you should report it to Action Fraud online or via 0300 123 2040.

Bailiff

Bailiffs will never telephone to ask for your bank details - Credit: Getty Images

Bailiffs - genuine or scammers?

If you're unsure whether communication from a bailiff is genuine, remember a county court bailiff will:

  • Only pursue a debt where a county court judgement has been registered (you can go onto your credit report to check whether it is genuine).
  • Not telephone or send emails asking for money or make multiple calls in a short space of time.
  • Not ask you to transfer money into a bank account.
  • Not tell you to pay and say you can claim it back at a later date.
  • Not provide you with prefilled court forms to send in to defend a claim.
  • The bailiff will hand deliver any documents and will not take money there and then.
  • If you want to make a payment, they will give you the county court number to call and you can pay by debit card. When calling the court, use the find a court website to get the correct court number.