A growing number of councils are issuing warnings to their residents through social media, telling them to remain vigilant in the wake of the latest cold-calling scam. There have been a rising number of reports of scammers contacting unsuspecting residents, claiming that they are from the council and that a council tax rebate is due. Once the fraudsters have gained the confidence of the victim, they ask for bank details so that the rebate can be paid, only to then use those details to commit fraud.
What is the council tax rebate and who qualifies?
A council tax rebate was announced by the chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak in early February 2022 as part of a number of measures to help tackle the rise in the energy price cap. All those within council tax bands A to D are to receive a rebate of £150, with no rebate due to those living in larger properties within council tax bands E to H. In addition, local authorities were allocated an extra £144m of discretionary funds to help those that do not qualify or who are in need of extra help.
How is the council tax rebate paid?
Those who pay their council tax by direct debit will receive their council tax rebate directly into their bank. It was initially reported that the rebates would be paid in April, however, it is taking a little longer for some councils to administer the payments. Those that don't pay their council tax by direct debit will have to provide their bank details to their local council, however, there isn't a standardised process and so this is likely to differ with each council.
How to spot a council tax rebate scam
Your local council will never ask you to provide your bank details over the phone. Most councils will either contact you by letter or email and many are inviting their residents to visit a secure form on their website to complete the details online. If you do receive a call that you believe to be genuine, you should ensure that the number matches the number on your council's website or any recent letters so that you can verify the authenticity. Scammers are however using increasingly sophisticated technology that can clone telephone numbers, making it look like you are speaking to a genuine person. The safest thing to do is end the call and contact the council yourself.
How to report a council tax rebate scam
If you believe you have been a victim of this scam then you should contact your bank immediately. You should also contact Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. For more information on scams and what to look out for, read our article 'Scams advice – how to avoid falling victim'.