Council Tax Scam in Oxford

Council Tax Scam in Oxford

Council Tax Scam in Oxford

As bills are now beginning to be sent out, Citizens Advice Oxford and Oxford City Council have warned residents of a council tax scam which is currently circulating.

A client of Citizens Advice Oxford was defrauded out of £850 in one week when she received a message via WhatsApp claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs.

This claimed that she owed £1,600 in council tax, demanded immediate payment, and stated that she would be named and shamed in the local newspapers and/or receive a jail sentence if she didn’t pay the balance.

Although in receipt of council benefit, the woman was scared by the message and arranged a bank transfer payment of £850. The fraudster claimed that she would be refunded by HMRC.

Oxford City Council have asked residents to be aware that it is the council who collects council tax, not HMRC. And, that the council will never contact people by WhatsApp about their council tax.

Scammers often contact people by phone, text and email posing as staff from the council or from a government agency in order to defraud them. They may also use fake social media accounts and websites or correspondence that, at first glance, look like genuine sites such as the government website.

Citizens Advice Oxford and Oxford City Council say that residents should immediately end a call and delete texts, messages or emails if they are contacted about their council tax by anyone other than the council.

Most importantly, they should not make payments or give out personal information like bank account or debit card details unless they are absolutely certain they are speaking to the council.

The council does occasionally ask for information from residents to administer their council tax accounts, including refunds or arranging arrears collection.

Residents who want to verify genuine correspondence with the council should call 01865 249811.

Councillor Nigel Chapman, cabinet member for safer communities and customer focused services, said:

“Oxford City Council is responsible for collecting council tax and if you are contacted on WhatsApp about your council tax or by someone claiming to be from HMRC it’s a scam. If you’re not sure that a call, text or email is genuine, please check with us before giving out personal information or making any payment.”

Al Bell, director of Citizens Advice Oxford, added:

“Be suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name or agency you recognise. You should never give out personal or bank account details or make a bank transfer unless you are certain who you are speaking to. One way to check is to hang up, wait five minutes for the line to clear, then call them back. And if you have been scammed, don’t suffer in silence – report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline or Action Fraud.”

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