Save hundreds by cutting out internet middlemen and doing the administrative work yourself
YOU could save hundreds of dollars by cutting out internet middlemen and doing the administrative work yourself.
Sneaky websites and claim companies charge lots of money for basic work that takes them minutes to complete.
And with more and more families trying to collect every penny they’re owed, many could fall prey to middlemen who make a quick buck with ads on Google and Facebook.
Jenny Ross, which one? money, told Sun Money: “As the cost of living crisis intensifies, more and more people will seek help online.
“Our research revealed that there is a risk that they end up accidentally dealing with fraudulent claims companies or copycat sites who want some of their money back.”
Here’s what to look for.
INCOME TAX INVADERS
HAVE an income tax refund? Don’t use a third-party company that wants half of your refund to do it for you.
Earlier this year, consumer group Which? counted 208 companies with “Tax Reclaim”, “Tax Remboursement”, “Tax Claim” or “Tax Rebate” in their name.
One in five say they have been contacted by one, heard about it by word of mouth or found one online.
A letter sent by company Rebate Gateway used HMRC’s recognizable teal color and similar fonts and phrases.
He said he was trying to make sure customers knew who they were and would review their marketing.
MARRIAGE TAX PROVIDERS
Marriage Allowance – which allows a spouse to transfer ten per cent of their tax-free personal allowance to their higher-earning partner – is a wonderful support for cash-strapped couples.
But not if companies hungry for tax refunds get more than 80% of their annual allowance of up to £252, which can be backdated by four years to £1,242 (see case study).
Worryingly, some require customers to sign legally binding contracts called “deeds of assignment” authorizing the tax refund company to make a refund claim on their behalf – and this could remain in place for future claims, whether the collector performs other work or not. for them.
MANY holidaymakers do not know what new documents they need to travel after Brexit. And copycat companies exploit this confusion by tricking them into buying unnecessary documents.
For example, only those with an old-fashioned paper license need to apply for the International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some European countries, which costs £5.50 from the post office.
But the International Drivers Association implies that everyone needs a printed IDP to drive in Spain, which it will sell for $69.
A spokesperson said: “We are in the process of updating our content, especially now that most borders are open.”
And he added that customers who inquired about his chat and email service were told the post was selling IDPs.
Who? also found scam sites selling GHICs, the new free global health insurance cards allowing free or subsidized medical care in Europe, as well as visas for Dubai, which are free on arrival, and ESTAs for travel to the United States, which should cost $14 from the US government.
- TIP: For more information on GHICs, driving abroad and visas for other countries, stick with the UK. gov.uk and NHS websites, and follow the links from there.
FIGHT FOR FLIGHT CASH
PASSENGERS can get compensation of at least £220 if a flight has been delayed for more than three hours or canceled at short notice.
But claims companies are keen to do this for 30% of your reimbursement – and they don’t always state that you can do it yourself.
- TIP: First, passengers should contact their airline for a refund. You can do this through the free Resolver website. Only if you’re not going anywhere should you use a reputable law firm – such as Bott and Co – on a no-gain, no-fee basis to claim your money, but be prepared to pay fees oF at least £50.
‘PAYMENT HAS BEEN Slapped’
GRANDMOTHER Jackie Badger felt ‘punched in the face’ when a compensation company took 82% of her £252 wedding allowance.
The administrative worker, from Retford, Notts, spotted a Facebook advert for Total Tax Claims and contacted the company as she felt she would not have time to claim the money directly from HMRC.
Jackie, 60, said: ‘I saw the advert and wondered if we would qualify for the discount as my husband Harry is a retired service engineer and I work full time, so he can transfer his allowance to me.
“I thought the commission would be around 25%. I haven’t read the terms and conditions.
“I never imagined someone would take more than that. When I called they said I would get £45. I was shocked and asked why it was so low.
“They said, ‘If you’ve read the terms and conditions, our rates are in there’. But I never thought they would be so high. That’s a big chunk.
“It came as a punch in the face and a big disappointment. I hope it won’t happen to anyone else.”
The total tax claims charge is 42% inclusive of all charges plus a £100 administration charge.
The company told The Sun, “When you compare a customer’s potential savings to the one-time fee we charge up front, the fee structure isn’t as important as it first appears.
“The wedding allowance will often prove to be very beneficial to clients overall.”
He claimed his fees were “competitive”, said online advertising had “significant cost” and pointed out that Jackie had agreed to his terms and conditions.
HOUSEHOLDS in debt may not qualify for the £150 Municipal Energy Tax rebate.
Households in municipal tax bands A to D are receiving £150 to help pay their high energy bills.
But the money could end up paying off arrears if a recipient’s account is overdrawn.
The advice advises anyone concerned to contact their bank.
A sample letter from the National Debt Helpline tells your bank that you do not want the discount used to pay off arrears.
Contact Citizens Advice and National Debtline for help with debt management.
CREDIT IT – 1,721% APR
HARD-UP families are targeted with misleading advertisements for loans at exorbitant interest rates on social media.
A Sun Money investigation revealed sponsored posts on Facebook promoting loans at rates of up to 1,721%.
Several promised money within minutes or the same day, and some only displayed the potentially high rates in fine print.
The ads appeared after using search terms on the platform such as “Universal Credit”, “debt help” and “borrow money”.
An ad for a credit broker promised money sent in 15 minutes and a representative APR of 49.9%.
The fine print revealed the peak rate of 1,721%.
APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate and is used to calculate the amount of interest you will pay on top of the original amount you borrowed.
Borrowing £100 for 12 months at this rate would mean paying back interest of £1,621.04, more than 16 times the original amount borrowed.
Another ad promised money in your account today. The representative APR that did not appear in the ad was 505.7%.
A representative APR means that at least 51% of customers get the advertised rate if accepted.
By borrowing £100 for 12 months, you would pay interest of £413.25, more than four times the original sum.
Facebook has now removed the ads for violating its guidelines.
High cost credit is where rates and other costs are much higher than standard borrowing arrangements.
It is used by nearly three million people, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Many are on low incomes and have poor credit scores, and are excluded from traditional loans – meaning those who can least afford it pay more to borrow.
The FCA cracked down on high-cost credit, including home loans, rent-to-own, overdrafts and payday loans after the Sun’s Stop The Credit Rip-Off campaign.
It comes as millions of households face skyrocketing costs of living and there are fears that many may have to borrow just to get by.
Sue Anderson, from debt charity Stepchange, said: “Promoting quick and easy access to high-cost credit trivializes it and risks causing hasty decision-making that compounds financial hardship.
“The loans in these ads could be regulated, but the exorbitant APRs illustrate a frighteningly high risk of harm.”