We aim to make our website as accessible as possible. However if you use a screen reader and require debt advice you may find it easier to phone us instead. Our phone number is 0 8 0 0 1 3 8 1 1 1 1. Freephone (including all mobiles).
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Make sure it's us: Check you're getting genuine debt advice

We will never contact you without booking an appointment. Also, we would never recommend any debt solution without taking a look at your whole circumstances first. If a company cold-calls or emails you out of the blue, it's not us. Find out more about how we're tackling clone firms

If you receive an email, if it contains spelling mistakes, errors with grammar, or asks you to reply to an email address that’s not @stepchange.org or @stepchangenews.org, be wary of it. If you’re not sure, phone us on 0800 138 1111 and we’ll be able to help.

You can find us on these social media accounts

Are you sure that the person calling you is from StepChange? We’ll NEVER show up as ‘StepChange’ on your phone when we call you. If ‘StepChange’ appears on your phone when you receive a call it’ll be from a scammer. Our calls will show up on your phone as a private ‘withheld’ number, to ensure your family or friends don’t realise you’re talking with us.

When you need help with debt, you should feel confident that the organisation you're speaking to is genuine. Sadly, there are a number of 'clone firms' who are using altered versions of our name (e.g. 'Step to Change' or 'Step Changing') and other charities' names to convince people they're genuine debt advice services.

They're not genuine. They're scams, and they need to be stopped NOW.

What are clone firms?

Clone firms are fake websites that imitate real, trustworthy companies or charities. They're set up by scammers to trick you into giving your personal data or even your money. It's alarming how official they can seem. 

Clone firm links often appear at the very top of a search engine results page, as scammers will pay money to grab your attention first. And now, scammers are impersonating debt advice charities such as StepChange, National Debtline and Citizens Advice.

These companies also play on the fact that many consumers don’t realise that the first organisations listed in search results are adverts. For example, an Ofcom survey found only half of internet users can identify adverts in search engine results.

When you click on a link through to a clone firm, all may seem well at first. It’s a professional-looking website. They're talking about debt solutions and freezing interest. They even have helpful interactive tools and glowing reviews of their service.

Taking all this into account, you might be thinking, "Well, they look the part, they sound the part, and these reviews speak very highly of them. This must be the real StepChange."

But you'd be wrong.

This is a scam site set up to use our good name to grab your personal data. 

Once a clone firm or scam website has your data, they could:

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Sell it to other companies

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Try to access your bank account or other credit products

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Try to fraudulently take out credit in your name

And those customer reviews? They’re usually as fake as the website they're on. They’ve either been written by the scammers themselves or by a professional ‘review providers' who write bogus positive reviews.

Just because a company with a similar name to StepChange appears at the top of Google search results it doesn't mean it's the real deal.

When you search for StepChange on the web, make sure it's us!

Remember, we'll NEVER: 

  • Contact you unless you contacted us first
  • Appear on your phone as 'StepChange' when we call you
  • Message you via apps such as WhatsApp
  • Charge you for debt advice
  • Refer you to a third party for a repayment plan*

What can I do to protect myself from clone firms or scam websites?

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Is it stepchange.org? If it’s not, you could be dealing with a clone firm.

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If it’s not the logo you can see at the top of this page then it's not us.

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Do they provide full contact information? Are they registered with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)?

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You'll find us at www.register.fca.org.uk, where we're registered as 'Foundation for Credit Counselling'. If you search for the website's URL and this information doesn't come up, you're dealing with a clone firm.

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Do they use phrases like a ‘Government-backed debt advice scheme to write off your debts’? We would never say this, nor would any legitimate debt advice charity.

We're tackling clone firms and misleading ads, but more needs to be done 

In January, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld complaints about “clone firms” that pretend to be debt advice charities in order to deceive people. This is a huge win for us and whoever needs our help. Our own clients have raised awareness of this issue by letting us know about the clone firms that have contacted them.

While this is fantastic news, more needs to be done. Misleading adverts are still being seen online, making false promises about how to write off debts. Some clone firms are also calling people out of the blue, often pushing Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), as they can be profitable to these companies.

Have you been contacted by a clone firm? We want to hear from you!

We’re keen to talk to anyone who’s accidentally contacted a clone firm. This will help us prevent these firms from taking advantage of people who need debt advice. Please email us with any information you can provide.

Email us

Steve was looking for debt advice when he encountered one of these clone firms.

He explained how stressful this experience was to Radio 4's "You & Yours" programme.

I put in StepChange and clicked on the first link that appeared. Unbeknownst to me, this link would have taken me to the organisation masquerading as StepChange."

I work for a company who refers customers to free debt advice.

What should I do?

Firstly, thank you for doing what you can to help your customers. Please ask your frontline staff to: 

  • Give the correct contact details to your customers
    If your customers search for debt advice through search engines, there’s a risk they’ll go to a clone firm. If your colleagues give our contact details directly to the customer, there’s a greater chance they’ll get to the right place. 
  • If a customer says they’ve had debt advice, listen for anything they say that doesn’t sound right
    This could include how they’ve been referred on to another company, that they’ve been contacted by WhatsApp, or that there are charges to set up a debt solution. 
  • Report any dealings that customers have with firms that seem dodgy to the FCA
    You can report suspicious websites on the FCA website. With your help, we can make it very difficult for clone firms to operate, which means greater safety for your customers.

*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.