Trading Standards issue Council Tax refund scam warning
A canny, Greenock woman has seen off a scammer who was trying to con her by claiming that she was due a £4,300 refund on her council tax.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said, “I knew right away that it was a scam. There are that many going about that you can tell. Sometimes we get as many as 20 or 30 call in a day between the house phone and the mobile.
“The girl had a nice, educated voice and she was really polite. She said her name was Emmanuelle and that she was working alongside the local authority. She said that my home had been put in the wrong council tax band and that I was due a £4,300 refund because I’d been paying too much.
“She asked how long I’d been in the house and I said 20 years. She said all I had to do was pay a £150 fee now and then it would take five weeks for my refund to come through. She said it was really good value because a lawyer would charge £500 - £600. She wanted me to pay there and then by Visa Debit but that’s my bank account card and I thought, ‘No, you’re not on.’
“I asked her what Band I was in and she said D. I told her I’m in Band A and she put the phone down.
“I just thought I had to say something about this. I don’t want some pensioner to be thinking they’re going to get a big pay out before Christmas only to find their bank account has been emptied.”
Most homes in Inverclyde are in Band A. This is already the lowest band. If a home is in Band A and someone claims it is in the wrong band, then the Council Tax would be more, not less, and the person would be getting a bill, not a refund.
Councillor Michael McCormick, Convener of Inverclyde Council’s Environment & Regeneration Committee, said, “In Scotland the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) sets the Council Tax Bandings for properties not local authorities like Inverclyde Council. The SAA does not call people to say that their Council Tax banding is wrong. It is up to individuals to make an appeal if they think there has been a mistake or a change in circumstances.”
A spokesperson for Inverclyde Council’s Trading Standards Team said, “This is a common scam in Inverclyde. We would say to people always be very suspicious of someone who calls you out-of-the-blue and says you are in for a big cash pay out. The council doesn’t do this. Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) doesn’t do this. Microsoft, BT, Sky and Virgin don’t phone people to tell them they have a problem with their computer or broadband.
“If someone calls you and says you need to pay a fee to claim cash you are owed, hang up. If they try to put pressure on you or try to rush you into paying, hang up. If they ask for your bank account details or personal details, hang up.”
A lot of companies claim they can get people a Council Tax refund if they pay a fee. But anyone can submit an appeal against their Council Tax banding free at www.saa.gov.uk
However, usually the only reasons an appeal will be successful are if the home has increased in value because it has been extended (so the Council Tax will go up) or if a large property has been changed into smaller flats.
Council Tax valuations are based on how much the property would have sold for on 1 April 1991. A rise or fall in house prices since then is not considered a reason to change the Council Tax band.