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Fraud police receive 100+ reports of new council tax scam – what to look out for

Fraudsters are trying to trick victims into handing over their financial details by claiming they're owed a council tax refund – here's what to watch out for. 

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, says there has been over 100 reports from people getting an email which claims to come from the 'Council Tax & Payroll Service'.

The email links the recipient to a convincing Government-style website, and they are then asked for personal details to claim a refund – although if you were to put details in, you wouldn't get cash back and would likely lose money.

Action Fraud says it's had the reports of the scam – known as a 'phishing' scam – since January, and although it's not aware of people actually losing money, we're making consumers aware of it because we published a new investigation showing Brits are owed £230 million+ in overpaid council tax and don't want people to fall for the scam with that in mind.

If I receive an email which says it's from my council, how do I know if it's a scam?

As we explain in our Reclaim overpaid council tax guide, councils do email residents from time to time if they're owed council tax back, so telling whether an email actually comes from a council or not can be difficult.

Here's what to check for:

  • If you receive an email, ring the council and check. Find your council's phone number yourself (don't use one quoted in the email) and give it a ring. It should be able to tell you if it's sent you an email itself.

  • Watch out for bad spelling and grammar. Be vigilant if an email is badly worded or littered with spelling mistakes.

    Actual councils will likely proof-read their emails – so bad grammar, dodgy spelling and poor punctuation are likely to be picked up before any emails go out. But phishing emails aren't likely to go through such a rigorous process.

  • Check any web address you're linked to. If an email links you to a website, check if it matches up with a known email address.

There's more guidance on Action Fraud's website on how to avoid phishing scams.

If you receive an email purporting to be from your council, don't assume it's legitimate. And if you think it's a scam, report it to Action Fraud.

How do I legitimately claim back overpaid council tax?

We revealed last week that there's at least £230 million in overpaid tax sitting in council coffers – and if you've moved home since 1993, you could be owed £100+ of it.

The most likely reason you'll be owed is if you pay for your council tax in advance, and your account closed before the point you'd paid up to, but there are other reasons you could be owed a rebate, for example if your property is in the wrong council tax band.

There are full details on how to check if you're owed and reclaim in our guide.

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