Gone fishing – the Lewis Group’s debt collection techniques

May 21st, 2009 188 Comments By Paul Nikkel

picture 12 Gone fishing   the Lewis Groups debt collection techniques Bitterwallet has little time for debt collection agencies, but there are varying degrees of unpleasantness. Scraping the bottom of this slimy gutter are those companies that deceive and bully people into paying up. A Bitterwallet reader has been in touch, concerned about a letter he received from a sinister sounding organisation:

This morning I got a letter from the Scottish Bureau of Investigation? It was addressed to “The Occupier” and not to me, but I’m named in the letter. It asked “if you are this person, or can provide information on where they can be contacted” then to phone them on an 0870 number about a “personal matter”? It’s signed with a scribble that can’t be read, but there’s no contact name given.

What is this organisation and what do they want from me?? It scared my wife to death, but I won’t call them without knowing what they want.

It’ll be about money. You might owe thousands, you might owe pennies – regardless, the Scottish Bureau of Investigation is a dormant company that doesn’t trade, operated by a debt collection agency called The Lewis Group Ltd. They fish for information and hope to scare people into contacting them, at which point a person unwittingly confirms both their identity and address.

It’s a tactic often employed by The Lewis Group, as advertised on their website:

We champion various collection techniques and activities to ensure optimum results. We house a large library of letters, tested for their effectiveness and collection managers have the ability to swiftly introduce new letters, as required.

There are laws and guidelines governing such correspondence from debt collection agencies; the Administration of Justice Act 1970 states that harassment or “behaviour calculated to subject [an individual] or members of [their] family or household to alarm, distress or humiliation” is illegal.

Sending such documents would also seem to undermine the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) debt collection guidelines which stipulate that debt companies should not undertake “unfair practises” such as:

  • leaving out or presenting information in such a way that it creates a false or misleading impression
  • not making clear who they are, who they work for, what their role is, what the purpose of the contact is
  • asking or instructing debtors to make contact on premium rate telephone numbers

Just last week, OFT reported on another tracing technique, where similar letters are sent to neighbours with a similar address to fish for information on their targets.

What can be done about letters like these? Unless The Lewis Group contact you by name, state the nature of the debt and who they are seeking to recover monies on behalf of, ignore their correspondence – the letter has no legal standing and you’re not required to contact them.

Bitterwallet attempted to speak to The Lewis Group concerning the Scottish Bureau of Investigation. We contacted their head office in Cleckheaton, but were given the Bureau’s direct number in Glasgow. We called the number and reached… The Lewis Group. Upon asking to speak to their PR department, we were transferred back to Cleckheaton where a member of staff refused to either transfer the call to their PR department or provide a contact name.

We called Consumer Direct and talked through the contents of the letter. We were told that since the letter failed to explain its purpose, wasn’t address to an individual and requested contact via a premium rate number, the letter was in breach of OFT guidelines, adding that anyone receiving such a letter should ignore it. For more information you can call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06, or to make an official complaint, contact the Office of Fair Trading at enquiries@oft.gsi.gov.uk.

Comments (188) Jump to most recent comment
  1. Could you send me the some texts somewhere or drop me an email? It be great Thank U

  2. Gone fishing – the Lewis Group’s debt collection techniques | BitterWallet I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You are wonderful! Thanks! your article about Gone fishing – the Lewis Group’s debt collection techniques | BitterWalletBest Regards Veronica

  3. great,please keep it up

  4. Great post! I just want to thank you for being such awesome people. Me and my wife always love to read your articles and post OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It is just so interesting. :)

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  6. Great topic would like to have some more information

  7. Posted by ben September 23, 2012 at 2:46 am

    this is a very good post, please keep it up!

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  10. Grate Post!! thanks Paul Nikkel :)

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  12. It’ll be about money. I did however expertise a few technical points using this site, since I experienced to reload the site lots of times previous to I could get it to load properly. Ensure that you update this again soon..

  13. Posted by Brian March 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Very interesting – I have been blissfully unaware of the antics of this company.

    I have been receiving pre-recorded telephone calls from this company ( The Lewis Group).
    At first, I just hung up as the message began, but decided to listen after a few had been received. They were asking for some-one unknown to me to contact them urgently. I did contact them to let them know that I was not the person to whom they were referring and instructed them to delete my details from their records, which they agreed to do. However, the following day I received yet another pre-recorded call. What can I do? This is infuriating. As for letters addressed to The Occupier – these have always gone in the bin and will continue to do so.

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  18. I just found out that I have an electric bill that wasn’t paid 5 years ago. We were taken to court by a debt collector and recieved a judgement. Now we’re trying to get our power turned on in a new house. The electric company will not turn it on until we pay the past due amount. It’s my understanding that debt collectors purchase the debts from overdue bills. So who do I pay? Debt collector or electric company? Can they refuse to turn on our power?

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  36. Posted by Jacinta January 6, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Just had someone at my door claiming to be from the Lewis Group. He didnt show ID. He asked for someone who doesn’t live here. He kept fishing for information and when I asked again who he was he said “I already told you” I said “what exactly is it you want” and he replied “you aren’t ‘name of person’ are you? So it’s not your business”. His attitude was aggressive and pushy and i think if it wasn’t for the fact I had my dog at the door with me he may hae been more pushy.

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