Scam of the Week: Warning over Council Tax Refund Scam

June 27, 2019 8:25 am Geraldine Strawbridge

The Police have urged UK householders to be on their guard as a new council tax refund scam spreads throughout the country.

Fraudsters are posing as council staff and contacting people via text, email and phone to tell them that they’re due a refund for an overpayment on their account or to demand a payment for arrears.

Another scam aims to convince people that their property is in the wrong council tax band and that if they pay a fee of £150, the problem will be fixed. However, a council tax band reassessment is free and can be arranged by contacting the Valuation Office Agency.

The scams are extremely convincing and use the Government’s GOV.UK branding to lull people into a false sense of security. The fraudsters also try and increase their legitimacy by including text at the bottom of the email warning about the dangers of scams and advising people what to do if they’re worried.

Most of the scam emails and texts include a link to a fake website where the recipient can claim their ‘apparent’ refund. Of course, there is no refund and the scams are just a way to con people out of money and steal their bank account details.

Image: Fake Council Tax Refund email

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association, commented on the new wave of scams: “Cold-hearted criminals are using more convincing council tax scams which are being sent out barrage-style and reported by local authorities 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.”

To protect yourself from falling victim to one of the many council tax phishing scams, you should follow the below guidelines.

  • If you receive an email claiming you’re due a refund, phone the council and check. Source the number yourself (don’t use the number stated in the email) and call to confirm.
  • Never click on links or download attachments from unknown sources.
  • Look closely at the spelling of the web address and check for any minor inconsistencies that may indicate a phishing website.
  • Check for grammatical errors – Spelling mistakes and casual language may point to a phishing email.
  • Install the latest anti-virus software solutions on all your devices.
  • Use strong passwords to reduce the chance of devices being hacked and use different passwords for different accounts.
  • Use your spam filter – If you detect a phishing email, mark it as spam and delete it. This will prevent the message from reaching your inbox again.

If you have a received a suspicious email, text or phone call, you can report this to:

The HMRC Phishing Team – phishing@hmrc.gov.uk

Action Fraud – 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm.

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