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Beware! New council tax scam.

Posted 21 September 2015

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Don’t be caught out by scammers pretending to help you claim back overpaid council tax.

Being in debt will often involve having some council tax arrears to deal with. After all, the Citizens Advice Bureau recently highlighted that council tax debt had become the biggest problem being reported to them, with one in five people telling them that council tax is on their list of debts. So, if some fella calls you and tells you that you’re due a refund, it’s understandable that you might be interested in finding out more.

What’s the scam?

This is a good scam, if you could ever call scams good, in that it is possible that you might be in the wrong council tax banding and due a refund. Council tax bandings might change for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that the property has changed dramatically since the valuations took place in 1991, which was based on what your property was worth at the time. A dramatic change could, for example, be if you’ve demolished or extended part of the property.

However, the fact that they then go on to ask you to pay up to £350 to complete the process of getting a refund on the overpaid amount, which, according to them, should be around £7000, is the scam part. Why? Because you can check your council tax bandings, and request a refund if you’ve been in the wrong banding, for free. You can find out how to do that in How to check your council tax bands, coming later this week. 

The official advice

The National Action Fraud website has some useful information about how to keep yourself safe from phone scammers of all kinds, they say:

“Never respond to unsolicited phone calls

Your local council won’t ever phone out-of-the-blue to discuss a council tax rebate, if you receive a call of this nature, put the phone down straight away.

No legitimate organisation will ask you to pay an advanced fee in order receive money; so never give them your card details.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, hang up the phone and wait five minutes to clear the line as fraudsters sometimes keep the line open. Then call your bank or card issuer to report the fraud. Where it is possible use a different phone line to make the phone call.”

And, if you want to report something you think is suspicious, you can call 0300 123 2040 or use their online reporting tool

At the moment the scammers are only targeting people over the age of 60, in the Sussex area, but the police expect them to roll it out all over the UK soon. So, if you get a call and you’re not sure what it’s all about, don’t give them any of your personal or financial details, like your bank account number or date of birth. If they’re genuine, they won’t mind you asking for some proof they are who they say they are, like a telephone number for their general office or reception, so you can check the details they give you. Stay safe! 

by Shelley Bowers

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.