Criminals posing as council staff are targeting people across the country with fake refunds and penalty fines, town hall leaders have warned.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, said fraudsters are contacting residents by text, email and phone to con them out of money and access their bank details.
The fraudsters tell people they have either paid too much council tax and are due a refund which can be arranged on their behalf for a fee, or that they owe money for council tax arrears.
Another scam aims to convince people their property is in the wrong council tax band and suggests fixing the problem – for a £150 fee.
However, in reality, a council tax band reassessment is available for free.
Many of the scams falsely claim to be from local councils or the Valuation Office Agency – and use GOV.UK branding on fake websites and text messages.
Newark and Sherwood District Council said it’s uncovered text messages from criminals promising refunds using Government branding.
South Lakeland District Council also said it’s found scammers messaging residents’ mobile phones claiming they are due a council tax refund and asking for personal information, including their bank details.
The LGA is urging anyone who receives an email, text message or phone call offering a council tax refund not to give out any personal information, particularly bank account details, or debit or credit card details.
Anyone who receives a message should delete the email or text, block the sender and make sure they do not reply or click on any links. Any such phone calls should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.
Residents who wish to have their council tax band assessed, can do so for free by contacting the Valuation Office Agency. This information will have been supplied to residents with either a previous or current council tax bill.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Cold-hearted criminals are using more convincing council tax scams which are being sent out barrage-style and reported by local authorities all across the country.
“These council tax scams can damage people’s lives, both financially and emotionally, and anyone can be fooled by them, especially if they appear to look official.
“Anyone who is contacted about a council tax refund or assessment over their council tax band which includes a request for personal information and bank details should ignore it and report it.
“Councils will never phone, text or email residents to ask for a payment to release a council tax refund or ask for personal bank details.
“Most fraud is preventable if individuals and businesses follow simple advice, but victims shouldn’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed. By reporting a scam, people can help someone else avoid being a victim.”
Anyone who receives a suspected council tax scam can report it to their local council. If you think you’re overpaying, see our guide on how to check if you’re due a council tax discount.