Top

Council Tax scams - how to stay safe

Council Tax scams - how to stay safe

Keep an eye out for the new Council Tax scam doing the rounds, but don't forget about the others.

Anna Jordan

Rights, Scams and Politics

Anna Jordan
Updated on 3 March 2017

Scam emails from your ‘local council’

Action Fraud and The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) are warning against refund emails claiming to be from your local council.

The phishing scam emails claim that the victim is owed money on their payments but are then asked for bank details to process the refund. This is how the scammer grabs the victim's cash.

These emails should be quite easy to spot, but if you’re in doubt look out for the classic signs. Scammers often don’t know the recipients’ real names so they’ll use generic terms like ‘Dear customer’ and they’ll probably contain a few spelling and grammatical errors.

Just remember that you’ll never receive unsolicited emails telling you that you’re owed a Council Tax rebate.

Local council 'refunds' over the phone

Action Fraud is also urging households to be vigilant of cold calls claiming to be from their local council.

Victims are told that they’ve been in the wrong tax bracket for years. They’re then told that they’re entitled to a rebate around the value of £7,000.

In order to receive the rebate they’ll need to pay an ‘administration fee’ upfront, generally from £60-£350.

Once they’ve made the payment and finished the call, the scammer disappears and can’t be reached by the victim again.

If you’re at all unsure, remember that you should never respond to unsolicited phone calls. Your local phone won’t ever phone you to discuss a tax rebate so you should just ignore it. Organisations won’t ask for your details over the phone so don’t give them your card details.

Hang up the phone and wait five minutes for the line to clear if you think you have been a victim of fraud. Fraudsters may keep the line open. Using a different phone if you can, call your bank or card issuer to report the fraud.

Check your credit report if you think you've been scammed

Reducing your Council Tax band for a fee

You might also be contacted by someone who claims that they can reduce your Council Tax band for a fee. They may phone you up or they might even appear at your door.

They’ll use a combination of tactics including:

  • Charging an upfront fee with an added 20% reduction if they successfully reduce your Council Tax band;
  • Insisting you’re definitely on the wrong band and are owed back payments, even though you’re on the right band;
  • Saying they’re from the local council or the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and asking for your bank details so they can give you a refund, going on to steal money from your bank account;
  • Claiming that the VOA charges you to challenge your Council Tax band, which can be done for free;
  • That you must be represented by an agent (you don’t) and that it's on a list of agents approved by the VOA when the VOA doesn’t keep any such list.

Get your Council Tax band checked for free by contacting the Valuation Office Agency. If you’ve got a door stepper that just won’t leave, dial 999.

Always ask for identification. If you’re on the phone, confirm where the caller’s head office is and if someone has come to your door, ask them to show you their ID before letting them into your home. 

A new way to pay?

Watch out for a scam that claims that there’s a new and easier way to pay your Council Tax.

It uses an increasingly popular method called spear phishing which makes it look like you’re being contacted by people you know. It could be a loved one or a company that you recently bought something from.

The email talks about a new service which makes it easier for you to pay your Council Tax online, but don't be fooled. It's a hoax.

To minimise the chances of falling victim to one of these scams, here are some tips on keeping safe:

Be careful about the information you post online –  if you’ve posted a lot of details, a fraudster could piece them together and scam you. Think about whether you’d want a scammer to see what you’re posting.

Beef up your passwords – you should avoid using one or variations on one password, opting instead for different passwords on every website, using random numbers and letters. It’s best to change your password frequently too.

Update your computer software – do this as soon as you get notified as most system and browser updates include security patches.

Follow up suspicions – if you receive an email that looks like it might be spear phishing, contact your friend or the business in question on a number that you know and trust. Companies won’t ever send unsolicited emails asking for your personal details.

HMRC emails

Luckily, this one's a bit of a dud. There have been dodgy emails claiming to be from HMRC telling people that they are due a refund directly from the taxman.

Clicking on links in the email will either take you to a fake replica website or will download trackable malware onto your computer. Scammers will use these methods to harvest victims’ bank account details.

Anybody who receives this email should get in touch with phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

If you think you've fallen victim to a scam, check your credit report. You can get a 30-day free trial with loveMONEY today.

Most Recent