How to recognise if a debt's yours

Discover our guide on how to recognise if a debt is yours, and your next steps with Lowell. If you're worried that a debt isn't yours, find out how we can help.

Sometimes, customers get in touch to ask us why they have been contacted by Lowell. We understand that you might feel surprised if you weren't aware that there was a debt in your name, but we're here to help.

There are several ways that this could have happened, so this guide is here to help you understand how to recognise if a debt is yours, and your next steps. If you think that something isn't right, we'll always look into the situation to help you get it resolved.

In this guide:

This content is intended to be an impartial guide regarding how to recognise if a debt belongs to you. Lowell Financial Ltd does not offer legal or financial advice. You can find out more about the organisations you can contact in our guide on debt help and support.

When am I still liable for a debt?

There are lots of reasons why you may think that you're no longer liable for a debt, but there may still be charges or fees due on the account.

If the account is purchased by Lowell, we’ll contact you to help you determine a payment plan and start you on the road to settling the debt.

There are also steps you can take to make sure that this doesn't happen to any other accounts or contracts that you currently have. 

You might have closed an account with outstanding charges you weren't aware of

You might have closed an account without being aware that there are still outstanding charges or interest on the account, or things that you need to settle to make sure that you're not charged.

Information on this will be available in the cancellation terms and conditions that the company sent to you. However, if you didn't read or didn't notice the information on the contract when you signed it, you may not be aware of additional charges.

In some situations, not returning equipment can result in a charge, which will still need to be paid to that company, even if you don't have an account with them anymore. An example would be a broadband company, which might request that you return a router once you close your account.

How to prevent this: Always check with your provider if you can close the account without charges, and if any equipment needs to be returned to close the account.

You may have cancelled a contract before the fixed period ended

If you have a contract for a fixed period, you may believe that you can cancel the contract at any point, such as mobile, TV or broadband, with no further costs. However, once you open a contract with a company, you're agreeing to continue that contract for the full period.

For example, a lot of mobile contracts are for 24 months. If you cancel your contract before the end of the period that you agreed to, you'll likely be charged for the remaining cost of that contract, including potential early repayment charges and any additional costs while in the contract.

How to prevent this: If you speak to a company to cancel a contract, they should make you aware of any extra charges or fees. Make sure to check whether the agreed period has ended first, and whether there will be any fees or charges for cancelling.

You were a guarantor for someone else's credit

If you have been a guarantor for someone else for credit, you may believe that you're simply helping them to get credit, and that's all. However, being a guarantor for someone could mean that you end up being responsible for their credit in certain circumstances.

If the person you have guaranteed is unable to make payments and breaks the terms of their contract, you could be responsible for the amount they have borrowed if their account defaults.

How to prevent this: Before becoming a guarantor for someone, you should make sure that you fully understand the potential risks that come with it.

You had a joint account with someone else

If you open an account jointly with someone else, you'll both be responsible for repaying the credit that's taken out. However, many people don't understand that this means you'll each be responsible for the full amount owed.

This means that if the other person has taken out more credit on that account than you wanted or agreed to, and they're unable to repay the amount, you might have to repay the money that they owe.

How to prevent this: Be cautious about opening a joint account with someone else if you think they might not be able to keep up with payments and keep track of payments on that account.

You moved address but didn't update your utility companies

When you pay for utilities at an address, you may believe that once you move, you're no longer liable for those utilities, but this might not be accurate.

If you have utility accounts in your name and you move to a new address without making the utility providers aware, they will be unaware that the account name needs to be updated, and the utilities used may continue to be racked up in your name.

If you can provide proof that you've moved out of the property, then you may be able to resolve the issue.

How to prevent this: Make your utility companies aware that you're moving out of the property before you leave. You should also check that there's no outstanding balance on your utility bills before moving. You might assume that the account is fully settled and be unaware that there's a balance remaining to be paid.

Please note, if you’re renting, there may also be differences in liability, given that some tenancy agreements include utility bills. This means the landlord is liable, and you don’t need to update any details when you move out. You can check the terms of your tenancy agreement for more information on your liability.

How to find out all my debts

We know it can be confusing to find out what debts you might owe, especially if you’ve been contacted about debts you didn’t realise you had.

It’s really helpful to get a list of all of your debts. This can help you determine what you need to look at paying back.

Check your credit file

To start working out all of your debts, you’ll need to look at your credit report, also known as your credit file. Your credit file shows the money you’ve borrowed and what you’ve been able to pay back.

There are three credit reference agencies in the UK – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – and they can give you a ‘statutory report’. This won’t usually give you your credit score and may only have basic details, but it will tell you many of your outstanding debts and credit products.

It’s worth getting reports from all three agencies, as they get different information from lenders, so your credit file may look different across the three.

What debts won't be on my credit file?

A debt might be missing from your credit file because it’s old. If a debt has defaulted, and six years have passed, then this will also no longer show, even if you still owe the money.

You may also have debts that aren’t listed. This is because some companies, such as utility providers and insurance companies, don’t have to list the information on your credit file, so these debts might not appear on your file.

Review letters from creditors

Another way to figure out your outstanding debts is by reviewing any letters or other correspondence, such as emails, that you’ve previously received from the people you owe, also known as your creditors.

Once you have these to hand, you can create one overall document that includes important debt-related information such as:

  • Who you owe
  • How much you owe
  • Account or reference number
  • The minimum monthly payment amount
  • The interest rate on a particular debt

Alternatively, if you feel comfortable doing so, you could reach out directly to your creditors. They’ll be able to let you know what information they have that relates to you and help with any concerns or questions you may have about the debt.

I've been contacted about a debt in my name, but it's not mine

Unfortunately, fraud can happen, and you may not realise that someone has taken out credit in your name until it has become a debt or defaulted, which can have an impact on your credit score. This is very different to having a joint credit product with a partner or family member or being a guarantor for someone.

If someone has taken out credit in your name, without your consent, this is identity fraud. Make sure you contact your bank or the creditor as soon as you realise. You can apply to have this debt removed from your credit file, so don’t worry. For more information, head to Action Fraud, where you can start a report about fraud.

Alternatively, it might be that there is a debt linked to your address that belongs to someone who lived there before you. This is most likely happening because the debtor in question hasn’t updated their address, which is why they’re still sending it to an old address.

There are a few ways you could deal with this, including returning the envelope to the sender with a note on the front stating ‘no longer at this address’.

If you continue to receive letters, and you’re certain that the debt doesn’t belong to you, you could contact the creditor yourself to explain the situation. They may ask for information, such as your moving date, so you might want to have this ready beforehand.

You could also take things further and make a complaint if you’re still being contacted. For more information, you can read StepChange’s guide on how to make a complaint about a creditor.

We know that debt can be worrying, especially when you don’t recognise it. If you’ve been contacted by Lowell but suspect you were the victim of fraud, then get in touch. We can help you find out what’s happened and tell you the next steps. 

What should you do if you don't think you're liable for a debt, and what can Lowell Financial do to help?

If you've been contacted by Lowell about a debt that you don't think is yours, or you think that something isn't right, please get in touch. We're here to help, and we'll give you all the information we have about the debt, including the original company that the debt was taken out with. If you still think something's not right, we'll look into the situation.

You can contact us in writing via post or email at any time asking us to explain a debt that you think might not belong to you and we will work with you to understand what's happening. We'll give you all the details we have about the account, and we'll ask you some questions to help us figure out what's happened.

If you are liable for a debt, what happens if you don't pay Lowell?

If you have a debt that's owned by Lowell, we'll reach out and try to contact you by phone, email, SMS, or letter. If you don't get in touch to explain your situation or set up a payment plan, you might be at risk of your account being passed on for further action from a solicitor.

The solicitor will also try to contact you, but if you don't respond, they may take legal action. This could result in a County Court Judgment (CCJ), which may lead to enforcement action such as bailiffs (enforcement agents). For more information, we've got helpful guides on the CCJ process and how Lowell works with bailiffs.

We understand that everyone's circumstances are different, but Lowell are here to help and support our customers and help you find an affordable and fair path towards becoming debt-free. Your payment plan will be based on what you can afford within your budget.

It’s also worth mentioning that in most cases no interest or fees will be applied as long as you’re working with us to manage your account. If you want to talk through your options, get in touch and tell us about your situation so our friendly team can help you find the right support.

Why is Lowell contacting me?

If you've been contacted by Lowell, it's probably us getting in touch to tell you that we've purchased your debt. This is because we’re required to let our customers know that Lowell now legally owns their debt.

As part of this, we’ll also work with you to figure out the best way for you to start clearing the debt. Our customers come first. We set up payment plans based on individual circumstances to ensure that they’re sustainable and reasonable for each person.

If you think there's something wrong, please let us know. We'll always do our best to get to the bottom of things.

Why would Lowell contact me?

Lowell will get in touch to introduce ourselves, and let you know that we've purchased your debt. If you're not expecting a call from us, and you're concerned about discussing financial matters over the phone, you're right to be wary. If you receive a call from Lowell, we'll always identify ourselves, but if you're not sure you can hang up and call us back on 0333 556 5550. Head to our Fraud Awareness guide for more tips on identifying and avoiding scam calls.

If you have any concerns about Lowell contacting you and you'd like more information about your debt, you can manage your Lowell account online to find out more information. You can also contact Lowell directly by phone, email, or letter.

How did Lowell get my number?

When Lowell purchases debt from other companies, the relevant details of the account will be shared with us. This could include your name, date of birth, and address so that we can identify you when we speak to you and make sure that we're speaking to the right person.

It might also include contact details such as your phone number and email address so that we can get in touch and keep you updated once Lowell has purchased your debt.

Your data is protected at every stage - for more information about your data. For more information, see our Customer Privacy Notice and frequently asked questions about Data Privacy.

How can I stop letters from Lowell Financial?

The easiest way to stop letters from Lowell Financial is to talk to our supportive team, and start a payment plan. Our payment plans are always based on your budget and what you can afford to pay - we won't ever judge you or force you to pay more than you can afford.

If you’re being contacted by us and receiving debt collection letters for someone else, please get in touch to let us know and we’ll investigate further. Our team will find the correct details for the person we’re looking for.

Recognising if a debt is yours isn’t always straightforward. If you’ve recently discovered that you’ve got an outstanding debt with us, our team will do all they can to help you become debt-free with Lowell.

We're here to help our customers, so if you think that something's not quite right, please let us know, and we'll do everything we can to get it cleared up. For more guides on debt and working with Lowell, head to our debt guidance hub or check out your next steps.

First published: 25th June, 2021

Last updated: 12th July, 2024