Warning over new wave of council tax scams

The Local Government Association has said that criminals posing as council staff are targeting people in a new wave of council tax scams offering bogus refunds or threatening fines.

Council leaders say that fraudsters are contacting residents by text, email and phone to con them out of money and access personal bank details. Scammers tell people they have either paid too much council tax and are due a refund which they offer to claim on their behalf for a fee. A similar scam demands payment for council tax arrears.

Fees of £150 have been quoted in the scams which falsely claim to be from local councils or the Valuation Office Agency in a bid to appear official and trick people into falling victim to them. Some also use the government’s GOV.UK branding in text messages and emails in a bid to appear more convincing.

The LGA is urging anyone who receives an email, text message or phone call offering a council tax refund not to give out any personal information, particularly bank account details, or debit or credit card details. They should delete the email or text, block the sender and make sure they do not reply or click on any links.

Anyone wishing to have their council tax band assessed, can do so for free by contacting the Valuation Office Agency. This information will have been supplied to residents with either a previous or current council tax bill.

Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Cold-hearted criminals are using more convincing council tax scams which are being sent out barrage-style and reported by local authorities all across the country. These council tax scams can damage people’s lives, both financially and emotionally, and anyone can be fooled by them, especially if they appear to look official.

“Anyone who is contacted about a council tax refund or assessment over their council tax band which includes a request for personal information and bank details should ignore it and report it. Councils will never phone, text or email residents to ask for a payment to release a council tax refund or ask for personal bank details. Most fraud is preventable if individuals and businesses follow simple advice, but victims shouldn’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed. By reporting a scam, people can help someone else avoid being a victim.”

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