Warning: new council tax rebate scams - here's how to spot them

Households have been warned of scammers pretending to be local councils

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Households could be at risk of falling victim to scammers as they continue to wait for their £150 council tax rebate.

Local authorities have warned that criminals are cold-calling householders asking for bank details to receive the Government’s £150 rebate.

Councils have urged residents to be alert to the scam, stressing they would never ask for bank details over the phone.

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The Government announced the rebate support earlier this year in response to soaring energy bills, with payments administered by local authorities for households in certain council tax bands. 

Payments are due anytime between April and September, but scammers are jumping onto the opportunity to steal from those who are still waiting to hear from their council on how and when they will be paid. Those who pay by direct debit will be paid automatically, but if you are not paying by that method, then you could become a scam target.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said anyone who unexpectedly receives a text, email or phone call seeking information or payment should not give out personal information, including bank details, click any links or respond until they can be sure it is genuine.

“Tax rebates are already one of the most widely-used scam tactics,” said Holly Andrews managing director at finance broker KIS Finance, "and this council tax rebate scheme will affect millions of households across the country, so for scammers, this is an ideal situation for them to take advantage of.”

To help you stay safe, here is everything you need to know about council tax refund scams.

How to spot a council tax rebate scam

There are a number of tactics that scammers may use to get you to hand over your money.

  •  They may ask for your bank details so they can provide a refund, then steal money from the bank account. Although your local authority may contact you by phone, email or text to tell you a payment is due or late, it will not ask for your bank account or personal details. 
  •  A scammer may insist you’re in the wrong council tax band and are owed back payments on your council tax bill. Remember, you can check your council tax band by postcode yourself online and a council is unlikely to contact you about it. 
  • They may quote the official-sounding billing authority (BA) reference for your home to lull you into a false sense of security. But this is public information and can be found using the online service
  • Phone calls from scammers are often characterised by a strong sense of urgency. “You have to act now, or else it will be too late.”  
  • Fake websites may pop up, designed to look like an application process on a genuine government website. However, these websites will have been created and designed to capture the information that you enter. 
  • Email and texts that are not genuine are typically riddled with spelling errors, poor grammar and, on closer inspection, nonsensical email address names and logos.
  • Scammers here could pose as a local council and claim that you need to make a small payment to them so they can authorise your bank details before the rebate is paid. They will most likely claim that you will receive a refund of the payment you made at the same time as the council tax rebate. 

What you can do if you are contacted by a council tax refund scammer?

If you are called by anyone claiming to be from your council who is asking for bank details, hang up. 

If you get an email or text asking for personal details, then do not click on the links.

If you want to check if a call or message is genuine, the safest thing to do is to call your council directly to double-check its authenticity. You can find your council's contact details on your council tax bill or website.

If you realise after giving your bank details away that it was a scam you should contact your bank immediately.

You should also report any suspected scam to Action Fraud. Keep up-to-date with the latest scams at Take Five To Stop Fraud (opens in new tab).

Tom Higgins is a journalist covering all aspects of the financial world, from investing and sustainability to pensions and personal finance. He graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London in June 2020 and has since written online and in print for the Financial Times group, New Statesman media group, numerous trade magazines, and has worked with Bloomberg on social media projects. He has a deep interest in environmentalism, social change, and data-driven storytelling. He can be found tweeting at @tomhuwhig.

With contributions from