How to avoid council tax refund scams

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is warning homeowners and renters to be vigilant, following a new batch of council tax refund scams.

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Bogus agents have been personally turning up at properties or contacting people by telephone, claiming they can reduce council tax bills and offer help in claiming tax rebates from local authorities.

So, to help you spot a scam, here are some of the tactics being used by bogus agents:

-Charging upfront fees: Recent scams have involved fraudsters charging an upfront fee with an added 20% of the reduction should they successfully reduce your council tax band.

-Requesting bank details for a refund: Fraudsters have been claiming they are from the local council or Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and asking for bank details so they can provide a refund. They will then steal money from the bank account.

-Giving false information about the refund process: Fraudsters have incorrectly stated that the VOA charges you to challenge your council tax band and taxpayers must, by law, be represented by an agent to challenge their band, when in fact anyone can do this.

Similarly, scammers have misled victims by stating that they are on an approved list of agents recognised by the VOA, when in fact the VOA does not keep any such list.

How to avoid being scammed

HMRC has also issued a dos and don’ts checklist to help prevent taxpayers falling victim to such scams. These are as follows:

Do…

-Check your council tax band for free by contacting the Valuation Office Agency
-Confirm over the phone with a cold-caller’s head office to check that they are legitimate
-Inform the police if you believe that anyone is impersonating staff from your local council or the VOA
-Dial 999 if a doorstep cold-caller refuses to leave your home
-Contact your local Trading Standards office if you feel you have been the victim of a council tax scam

Don’t…

-Give your bank details to anyone
-Let anyone into your home without seeing appropriate identification
-Feel under pressure from a cold-caller to pay an immediate upfront fee. Take the time you need to think about it
-Accept cold callers’ claims about your council tax band without seeing evidence or proof of what they are claiming
-Deal with anyone that is reluctant to give you their company address or contact details.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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