May’s debt and money news

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This month we’ve been keeping an eye out on the latest scams, with reports of people getting suspicious-looking emails about Council Tax arrears.

Search giant Google has taken the decision to ban payday loan adverts from its search results, and do you know exactly what’s in your bank account? According to a report, two thirds of us are happy to remain blissfully unaware! It’s all here in May’s debt and money news.

Google bans ads for payday loans

Google will no longer be showing ads for payday loans, after it decided it doesn’t want to promote lending that could be harmful for consumers.

The search giant has stated that the ban, which comes into effect next month, is “designed to protect users from deceptive or harmful financial products”. While this means that lenders can’t pay to advertise their products, it doesn’t mean they won’t show up among other search results.

We already know that payday loans can cause huge headaches for many people, and can lead to long-term debt problems. If you’ve not got enough money to get by already, then a payday loan will only make the situation worse.

Two thirds of Brits are happy not knowing what’s in their bank account

New research has suggested that many people aren’t getting to grips with their finances, and have little or no understanding of their financial situation.

The study, which looked at 2,000 adults, found that 58% weren’t sure about their hourly rate of pay, and 70% couldn’t say how much they paid in income tax.

For some people, not knowing about their finances is no cause for concern, with nearly a third of people saying that life is too short to worry about money, and 62% of people expressing no intentions of getting a grip on their finances in the near future.

In reality, most people can say roughly what they earn, what they pay towards their bills and what debts they have, but very few could say for definite.

Of course, we’d say that it’s important to know as much as possible about your finances, especially if you’re unsure about what debts you have, where your money is being spent and when looking for ways to reduce any unnecessary outgoings.

Debt collection and council tax email scam

Action Fraud have recently noticed a surge in the number of people reporting scam emails relating to council tax payments and debts to local businesses.

These emails can look quite convincing, but they’re phishing scams. These can lead to viruses and other unwanted software being installed on your computer when you click the links.

So, what should you be looking out for? Read our article to find out about debt collection and council tax email scams, and how to avoid them.

Council tax bailiffs should be called off, we say

We and our friends at The Money Advice Trust have called for an end to the practice of local authorities passing council tax debts to bailiffs for the most vulnerable people. Our research shows 62% of people struggling with arrears who got in touch with their council for help were still threatened with court action, and 51% were threatened with bailiff action.

Both ourselves and The Money Advice Trust are concerned that the increasing use of bailiffs (enforcement agents) is adding extra stress and anxiety to people’s situations, prompting them to make decisions that could worsen their financial problems.

Our Chief Executive Mike O’Connor said:

“This counter-productive approach needs to stop immediately and be replaced with one that is fairer and more constructive.”

While a small number of councils have changed their policies to rule out bailiff action if someone’s claiming Council Tax Support, we believe that this approach should be used nationwide, as more needs to be done to protect vulnerable people.

By not using aggressive types of enforcement, councils could reduce the additional stress and anxiety of people struggling financially.

Petrol prices back on the rise

It seems like only yesterday we were enjoying some of the lowest petrol prices for a long time, but that’s apparently set to change as increasing oil costs will push petrol back to more than £1.10 a litre.

The rises in prices, gathered by the AA fuel price report, mean that a family with two petrol cars will now pay an estimated £15.20 a month extra in fuel costs. Unfortunately, it’s also the same story for diesel that’s also increased by around 8p a litre since February this year.

If the pressure of rising fuel costs will put a strain on your budget, we’ve got 5 tips to make your fuel go further.

Overdraft costs should be capped, says watchdog – but can banks do more?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recommended that banks put a cap on overdraft charges, and do more to warn customers before they go overdrawn.

The new proposals would help customers by giving them advance warnings that they’re potentially falling into an unarranged overdraft, giving them time to avoid charges. But is this enough to help people who are struggling with the pressure of overdraft debts?

Our Chief Executive Mike O’Connor again:

“Three quarters of our clients have already used overdrafts just to try and keep up with their essential costs. Whilst the CMA sets out some remedies that are welcome and necessary, including a cap on unauthorised overdrafts and alerting people as they enter them, we remain unconvinced that these measures will go far enough.

“Alerting someone to the fact they are in an unauthorised overdraft will have no effect if they are unable to pay in enough money to escape”.

The CMA is expected to deliver its final recommendations later this year.

That’s all for this month, we’ll be back in June for our round-up of the latest money and debt news. Until then, let’s hope we hear news of a heatwave!

Rory Marshall joined the MoneyAware team in July 2014 after working for our Web Helpline as a debt advisor. In his spare time Rory is a self-confessed technology geek and spends far too much of his spare time on his phone.

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