Council Tax: Brits urged watch out for this ‘official-looking email’ – urgent scam warning

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While some people may be exempt or eligible for a discount, council tax is something Britons will need to pay. It can prove to be a substantial outgoing, so the chance to access a reduction on the bill may well be appealing.

As such, it seems some criminals have seized opportunity to take advantage of members of the public.

Worryingly, the scammers can then gain access to personal and financial details.

Among a number of reminders issued by UK Finance and published by Action Fraud recently, is a scam warning about people purporting to send emails from the government.

This trick may see them falsely offer a reduction on council tax.

“Criminals have been targeting people with official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’,” the warning states.

“These emails, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.”

Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, Katy Worobec, said: “During this pandemic we have seen criminals using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people’s financial concerns, impersonating trusted organisations like the NHS or HMRC, to trick them into giving away their money or information.

“The banking and finance industry is tackling fraud on every front, investing millions in advance technology to protect customers and working closely with the government and law enforcement to stop the criminal gangs responsible and neutralise the threat.

“We would always urge people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep their money and personal information safe from fraudsters.”

Last month, Britons were warned hundreds of people were being targeted by a Council Tax Reduction scam.

The email phishing attempt, uncovered by the Parliament Street think tank’s cyber research team, saw fraudsters purport to be from the “Government Digital Services Team”.

The phishing attack targets low-income earner, claiming the addressee would receive a Council Tax Reduction of almost £400.

With the fraudulent email containing official branding and government logos to trick the recipient into thinking it’s a legitimate email, victims are then redirected to a malicious site.

This site is designed to harvest personal information – from bank card details to a person’s home address and mobile number.

The email begins, claiming: “You have a new message from GOV.UK about your Council Tax.”

It goes on to read: “You are getting a Council Tax Reduction (this used to be called Council Tax Benefit) considering you’re on a low income or get benefits.

“Total amount of benefits: GBP 385.50.

“The refunded amount will be transferred directly on your Debit/Credit card.

“Apply now to claim the reductions made over your past 2 years of Council Tax payments.”

How to spot a scam

In order to spot a COVID-19 scam, UK Finance has suggested people be on high alert if any of the following apply:

“The website address is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation

The phone call, text or emails asks for financial information such as PIN, passwords

You receive a call or email out of the blue with an urgent request for your personal or financial information, or to make an immediate payment

You’re offered a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper product compared to the original price

There are spelling and grammar mistakes, or inconsistencies in the story you’re given.”

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