Householders are facing a “barrage” of council tax scams offering bogus refunds or threatening fines, town hall leaders have warned.
Fraudsters are telling people via text, email and phone that they have either paid too much council tax and are due a refund, which they offer to claim on their behalf for a “fee”, or demand payment for arrears, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.
Another scam aims to convince people their property is in the wrong council tax band and offers to secure a refund, again in return for a payment.
Council tax band reassessments are available for free.
Fees of £150 have been quoted in the scams which falsely claim to be from local councils or the Valuation Office Agency in a bid to appear official.
Some also use the Government’s GOV.UK branding in text messages and often include a link to a fake website to claim the refund.
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.
It advises recipients 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.
Simon Blackburn, chairman 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.