Fraudsters are exploiting chaos around the council tax rebate scheme to prey on vulnerable households desperate for help with their energy bills.
Scores of councils across England have warned that criminals are calling and emailing residents to demand their bank details in order to process the £150 payment.
Councils including Ashford Borough, Folkestone and Hythe District, Solihull, Somerset West and Taunton have all now issued warnings online and on social media urging households to be on their guard against hoax calls.
Preying on the vulnerable: Scores of councils have warned that criminals are calling and emailing residents to demand their bank details in order to process the £150 council tax rebate
Action Fraud, a cybercrime reporting centre run by the City of London Police, has also received reports from victims targeted by these types of scams.
The attempted fraud is the latest in a long line of scams focusing on people worried about rising energy bills.
At the beginning of this month, the energy price cap rose by 54 per cent, with the average household paying nearly £2,000 a year.
And experts have warned that the war in Ukraine could cause bills to soar as high as £5,000 a year by the autumn.
To help ease the pain, all households living in council tax bands A to D were promised a £150 council tax rebate this month.
But the scheme has descended into chaos, with many local authorities warning of long delays due to technical difficulties.
There is also growing confusion around how the money will be paid. Households who do not pay their bills by direct debit will not receive the cash automatically.
They will be contacted separately by councils when they have worked out a system to make the payments. It means those who pay by cash or cheque are particularly vulnerable to scams where criminals request their bank details in order to receive the cash.
Rob Davies, from Canterbury City Council, says households in his area had reported receiving phone calls from scammers posing as council officials, who asked for bank details under the guise of processing the rebate.
‘We wanted to make it clear that this is not something we do and if people get a call of this type, they should hang up straight away,’ he adds.
David Platts, head of customer services at Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick District Councils, says scammers began targeting elderly residents in his area two weeks ago.
‘The council was shocked to start receiving calls from elderly and vulnerable residents who had been targeted by scammers looking to gain bank details on the promise of paying the £150 rebate into those accounts,’ he says.
‘It is a sorry state of affairs when a scheme aimed at helping those most in need of financial assistance towards their fuel costs becomes a target for those looking to use it as a means of fraudulently gaining access to those people’s bank accounts.’
Householders are urged to remember that councils will never call and ask for residents’ bank details over the phone.
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