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New scam mail claims there's a new way to pay Council Tax online

New scam mail claims there's a new way to pay Council Tax online

Be wary of emails that tell you that tell you of an easier way to pay your Council Tax.

Anna Jordan

Rights, Scams and Politics

Anna Jordan
Updated on 11 April 2016

A new scam that claims to offer a new and easier way to pay your Council Tax bill online is doing the rounds.

It uses an increasingly popular scamming tactic known as spear phishing, which makes it look like you're being contacted by someone you know, like a friend or a company you've recently bought something from.

The wrong way to pay your Council Tax

Action Fraud says it has seen a spate of such emails (example pictured below) over the past couple of weeks. It uses a realistic domain name and claims there’s a new service up and running to make it easier for you to pay your Council Tax bill online. If you’re in any doubt about what services your council provides, contact it directly.

Photo credit: Action Fraud

Last year, Action Fraud warned people of a new Council tax scam where the criminals phoned victims telling them they were placed in the wrong Council Tax bracket for a number of years and were entitled to a rebate.

What is a spear phishing scam?

The Action Fraud contact centre has received thousands of calls and reports from the public who have received a spear phishing email. They contain detailed personal information such as full name, address and postcode.

Spear phishing is a twist on phishing scam that appears to be from a person or a company that you know. Scammers may have garnered your personal details from your recent online activity like social media posts that show a recent major purchase.

To minimise the chances of falling victim to one of these scams, you should:

  • 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 as soon as you get notified as most system and browser updates include security patches.
  • 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.

Another one to look out for

Action Fraud is also warning of another spear phishing scam which fools victims into thinking they owe outstanding debt. Emails claim to act on behalf of a legitimate company like Optex (Europe) Ltd with a link which could infect your computer with Cryptolocker or Maktub ransomware.

Spear phishing campaigns like this could constantly evolve, so Action Fraud is warning everyone to look out for signs like variations in company name as it’s easy for fraudsters to adapt information.

Photo credit: Action Fraud

As with any scam, be sure to report anything suspicious to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.

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