Councils across England have warned that criminals are exploiting people worried about how they are going to cope with paying their rising energy bills. Fraud and cybercrime reporting centre Action Fraud has also received reports from victims of this new scam.
At the beginning of April, the energy price cap increased by 54%, with a further increase due in the Autumn. The situation could be made worse as a result of the war in Ukraine.
To help, the government has announced that all households living in council tax bands A to D will be given a council tax rebate of £150. However, there is widespread confusion over how the rebate will be paid, and some councils have warned that difficulties in implementing the scheme will cause delays.
Fraudsters, taking advantage of the confusion, are calling people to obtain their bank details, claiming they are council officials and need the details to process the £150 payment.
David Platts, head of customer services at Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick District Councils, told the Daily Mail: “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.”
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, advises: “Councils will never call and ask for your bank details over the phone. If you get such a call, hang up straight away. If in any doubt, call the council who the caller claims to represent to ask for details of how its council tax rebate scheme works.”
Neate adds: “At a time when energy bills are rising astronomically and the general cost of living is increasing substantially, many people are having to make tough choices about whether they heat their homes or feed their families. That’s why this scam is particularly despicable, with fraudsters exploiting the vulnerable.”