By now, you’re probably used to receiving nuisance phone calls to your home every now and again. Although these phone calls can be annoying, a polite decline of their offer usually puts a stop to it. But what if you get a phone call from a seemingly reputable source like the council, would you be able to tell that this could be just another vishing scam? To make sure you’re in the know, we’ve put together this guide.
What’s the scam?
Similar to the Financial Ombudsman scam, the council tax scam sees fraudsters call up their victims pretending to be from the council. They tell them that they’ve been placed in the wrong council tax bracket for several years and are due a rebate (usually worth around £7,000).
The victim is then told that in order to receive this rebate, they’ll have to pay an administration fee in advance. This fee has varied from caller to caller, but can be between £60 and £350. Not knowing that they’re being scammed, the person on the other end of the line provides their details and makes the payment.
When the victim doesn’t receive the money and cannot get in contact with the person that they spoke to over the phone, this usually leads them to contact the council directly – who inform them that they know nothing about the tax rebate.
So far fraudsters have been targeting people (both male and female) over the age of 60 living in the Sussex area but there are fears that fraudsters may start to target other areas.
How can I protect myself?
You may think that you’d never fall for such a scam, but you’d be surprised at just how easily you can be convinced by someone over the phone, especially if they sound official. To make sure that you stay safe, remember the following:
• Don’t entertain unsolicited phone calls – just end the conversation straight away.
• You’ll never receive a phone call out-of-the blue from your local council to discuss a council tax rebate, so just put the phone down if you receive a call like this.
• You should never be asked to pay an advanced fee to a legitimate organisation in order to receive money like a rebate.
• Never give out sensitive information over the phone, like your card details. If someone asks you to supply them with your account number or PIN put the phone down immediately.
• If you ever think you’ve been a victim of fraud, hang up and wait five minutes for the line to clear (fraudsters usually keep it open in case you call the legitimate company directly). Then if possible, use a different phone and get in contact with your bank or card issuer to report the fraud.
• To make others aware of the fraud you’ve fallen victim to, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online reporting tool.