Ipswich Council Tax refund scam

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    Council Tax scam

    Residents are advised to be on their guard after a number of reports of fraudsters contacting Suffolk residents by phone, text or email about their council tax.

    One Ipswich resident has reported receiving an email from ‘Online Council TAX UK’ which claimed they were owed a refund, and requesting they provide their bank details via an online form.

    The email quotes a ‘council.tax.gov.uk’ email address. This is not a legitimate Government email address. Suffolk Trading Standards has confirmed that fraudsters have been calling people pretending to be from councils and asking them to complete a survey. Again, the callers have no connection with any local councils.

    People are advised not to engage with callers and not to give out any personal details, including bank details, if they receive unsolicited telephone calls, emails or texts.

    If anyone believes they have been targeted by a scam, or know someone who has, they should call Trading Standards on 03454 040506.

    Alternatively, they can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report it online through http://www.actionfraud.police.uk – Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime.

    Ipswich Borough Council is warning the public of the most recent round of scams which impersonate a government body requesting personal information and sensitive financial information such as bank account details. At first I thought Ipswich Borough Council was saying their Council tax collection is a scam, however, it appears to refer to scammers using phishing and other techniques to extract money out of people.

    This is a nationwide scam, information provided elsewhere which may be relevant include:-

    • Wandsworth Borough, London which have said:-

      Residents are being warned to be on their guard against a new email scam that promises people a refund on their council tax bills.

      Criminals are sending out so-called “phishing” emails that tell people they are due a council tax refund.

      The emails are designed to capture sensitive financial information from victims, either by taking victims to a fake website or by downloading malicious software on to computers that allow the fraudsters to track and trace people’s internet usage.

      Armed with these details the fraudsters can then begin to harvest people’s bank accounts.

      People who receive this email should delete it straight away without accessing any weblinks or downloading any files it contains.

    • Portsmouth City Council, which have said:-

      Residents are being advised to protect themselves against scam Council Tax calls.

      Cllr Lee Mason, Portsmouth City Council Cabinet Member for Resources said: “Be wary of anyone calling claiming that you’re in the wrong council tax band and offering to re-valuate it for a fee. It’s likely to be a scam. You can have your home checked for free from the valuation office. Please make sure you let any vulnerable or elderly relatives or friends know as sadly scammers tend to target these people.”

      Examples of the tactics used by bogus agents to get you to part with your money include:

      Charging an up-front fee with an added 20% of the reduction should they successfully reduce your council tax band

      Insisting you are definitely in the wrong band and are owed back payments on your Council Tax bill, when in fact your band is correct

      Saying they are from the local council or VOA and asking for your bank details so they can provide a refund. The fraudsters will then steal money from the bank account

      Claiming that the VOA charges you to challenge your Council Tax band; this is not correct, you can do this for free

      Claiming that taxpayers must, by law, be represented by an agent to challenge their band, when in fact anyone can do this

      Stating that they are on an approved list of agents recognised by the VOA, when in fact the VOA does not keep any such list

      They also provide good advice on DOs and DON’Ts which applies generally anywhere in the UK.

    • Amber Valley Borough Council, which said:-

      ‘Be vigilant’ warning on Council Tax refund scam

      Residents in Amber Valley are being advised to watch out for a potential email scam which appears to offer a Council Tax refund.

      This follows a suspicious email sent in to the Council by an Amber Valley resident. It contained a message advising the resident that they are eligible to receive a tax refund which can be reclaimed by completing and submitting bank details on the online form within the message. The form asks for the recipient’s bank details.

      Amber Valley’s Revenues Collection Manager, Martin Hendy said: “The Council sent out a similar warning a few months ago when we were informed that residents in Amber Valley were receiving telephone calls about refunds and it would seem now that scam emails relating to claiming refunds for council tax overpayments are circulating.

    • Wealden District Council which said:-

      Please be on the alert for fraudsters who may call you up or send you an email claiming you are due a council tax refund.
      Online fraud
      The latest scam we are aware of is an email headed: “Council Tax Refund – Confirmation” from a “Miss Rourke” from a company called “Unity Partnership”.

      It claims to offer you a council tax refund – after you have clicked on a link and provided details of your bank account!

      Please never give out information about your bank account by email, or over the phone unless you are absolutely sure who you are talking to.

      Other scams involve fake callers claiming to be from the council and are offering a council tax refund. They then ask for bank details in order to pay in the “refund”.

      Wealden District Council will never make an unarranged phone call to ask for your bank details.

    These are just the first few results that come up on Google. Whether or not actual residents were scammed or whether it is a national campaign by Action Fraud or Trading Standards by prompting every council to stick out a press release or news article warning people of a potential scam so people are prepared in case they receive one… we don’t know. Most links we saw with very similar information (hence we didn’t include above) referred to a sole resident receiving the email. Is it likely the first person receiving the email would report it? Probably not, so does that mean other people have received them? Possibly.

    I doubt many councils would contact you if you are owed a rebate… if they had a computer error and overcharged everyone they might write to everyone by post… being the council, they have your personal information, the occupier of the property. They don’t have to email you or phone you to find this out. Understand that any fraudster obtaining your details is highly likely to sell that on to others. They might even have all your personal information freely available for anyone to view online without any regard to your privacy.

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