Friday, 23 September 2011

Local residents warned to beware of cold callers

Residents in the Lancaster district are being warned to be on their guard from cold callers who claim to be able to cut their council tax bills.

Lancaster City Council has received reports of residents receiving unsolicited telephone calls from a business offering to investigate - in exchange for an upfront fee - if their property’s council tax banding could be lowered.

Residents can follow a free and simple procedure themselves to appeal directly to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) against their council tax banding.  VOA staff are always available to offer advice and guide you through the process if you have any queries.

Lancaster and Morecambe residents are not alone n suffering this kind of con trick. Fareham Council in Hampshire has just put out a similar alert, warning of bogus officials offering Council Tax refunds or threatening them with fines; as are Chorley and Trafford , where a 95-year-old woman was told that if she paid £300 the company could get her house moved from an E band to a D band, as well as securing her a potential Council Tax refund of £5000.

The scam is similar to one reported in 2009, when police and trading standards officers across the country received hundreds of calls and complaints when con artists took advantage of a genuine campaign encouraging people to reclaim overpaid council tax, seeing it as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners.

ClaimsFinancial reported how the fraudsters, claiming to be members of the local council, informed their victims that they had either overpaid or had outstanding council tax. The fraudsters then convinced the homeowners to give them banking details and card numbers in order to refund the payments or prevent the payment of a fine. There were also reports of emails being sent to householders requesting banking details.

• More information on council tax, and how to appeal against your current banding, is available at www.voa.gov.uk. The Valuation Office Agency can be contacted at 03000 503600.

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