Sharp rise in council tax rebate scams

Emma Woollacott
Council tax refund scams are on the rise
Council tax refund scams are on the rise

There's been a big increase in the number of fraudsters cold-calling householders and claiming they are eligible for a council tax rebate.

Posing as local council officials or professionals, they are not only phoning potential victims but also using a range of other techniques, such as sending text messages.

See also: Scamwatch: vehicle tax refund fraud

See also: Stop! It's not a tax refund. It's a scam!

The fraudsters explain that a rebate is due, but that an advance fee payment is required - which of course is never seen again.

"Whilst it may not be easy to identify if a tax rebate is legitimate, you should take care and know for certain that the tax you are planning to claim is genuine," says Action Fraud.

"A genuine company or organisation will never ask you for an advance fee payment to cover the administration costs in order to claim tax."

The scam is basically the same as one that's been doing the rounds for a while, with fraudsters claiming to be from HMRC and offering an income tax rebate - if their victim hands over their bank details.

Similarly, drivers have been receiving emails supposedly from the DVLA claiming they're offering a vehicle tax refund. Victims are asked to click on a link to access a 'secure web form' - which of course is a dodgy link.

The council tax scam should be easier to spot, as asking for an advance fee is hardly a standard requirement in the UK.

But if you do get a call that you think might be genuine, never take it up on the spot.

"Don't give your bank account details or sensitive information to anyone without carrying out your own research on them. Check the caller's credentials. Ask if they have a permanent business address and landline telephone number. Any mobile numbers given by fraudsters are often pay-as-you-go numbers which are virtually impossible to trace," says Action Fraud.

"Always check a company's contact details (such as a website, address and phone number) are correct and that they are registered in the UK."

And if you receive a call that you think is fraudulent, you should report it to Action Fraud here.