While there have been multiple council tax scams in circulation for a while, the energy crisis has prompted a new scam to emerge, with local governments across the country warning residents to be on high alert.
After central Government announced households would receive a £150 rebate to compensate for the sharp increase in the cost of electricity and gas, a scam quickly circulated with criminals who claimed to be from the council stealing victims’ bank details.
The Local Government Association explained that people who pay for their council tax by direct debit should receive the promised energy rebate directly into their bank account.
Residents who choose to pay by alternative methods should receive a letter detailing how to claim their rebate.
But scammers are cashing in on the government offer, asking residents to hand over their bank details in order to qualify for the rebate.
Here’s how the energy rebate scam works:
Scammers claim to be associated with the council and explain that a refund is due to their unsuspecting victim.
Then they request your bank details in order for them to ‘pay out the £150 rebate’ due to you.
Upon handing over those details, scam victims have reported large sums of money taken from their bank accounts soon after the call.
The Local Government Association says householders should never respond to a text or email and while local authorities are administering the energy rebates, local authority staff never ask for bank details to be given over the phone.
All households in council tax bands A to D are eligible for the rebate, which doesn’t need to be repaid.
How to avoid being scammed
Energy rebate scammers are primarily contacting their victims through cold calls. So be aware of any requests, no matter how official they may sound, to provide personal and financial details. You may be asked to provide these details via text message or email too.
If you receive a call, text, or email and you think it may be genuine, be sure to contact that organisation yourself to verify its authenticity first. You should be able to find these details on the local authority website or in a recent letter.
If you are worried you may have already handed your details to a potential scammer; you should contact your bank immediately.
You should also report the scam to Action Fraud or the police if you live in Scotland.
If you are unsure at all about any details of accessing your energy rebate, the Local Government Association provides more advice here.