Scammers are using the chaos of energy bill rebates to target vulnerable households in desperate need of help

Fraudsters are exploiting the chaos around the municipal tax rebate program to prey on vulnerable households who desperately need help with their energy bills.

Dozens of councils across England have warned that criminals are calling and emailing residents demanding their bank details in order to process the £150 payment.

Councils including Ashford Borough, Folkestone and Hythe District, Solihull, Somerset West and Taunton have now all issued warnings online and on social media urging households to beware of fraudulent calls.

Tackling the vulnerable: Dozens of councils have warned that criminals are calling and emailing residents demanding their bank details to process the £150 council tax refund

Action Fraud, a cybercrime reporting center run by the City of London Police, has also received reports from victims targeted by these types of scams.

The fraud attempt is the latest in a long line of scams targeting people worried about rising energy bills.

At the start of this month, the energy price cap rose by 54%, with the average household paying almost £2,000 a year.

And experts have warned the war in Ukraine could push bills up to £5,000 a year by autumn.

To help ease the pain, all households living in municipal tax brackets A to D have been promised a £150 council tax rebate this month.

But the project fell into chaos, with many local authorities warning of long delays due to technical difficulties.

There is also growing confusion over how the money will be disbursed. Households that do not pay their bills by direct debit will not automatically receive the money.

They will be contacted separately by councils when they have developed a system for making payments. This means that those who pay by cash or check are particularly vulnerable to scams where criminals ask for their bank details in order to receive the money.

Rob Davies of Canterbury City Council said households in his area had reported receiving phone calls from scammers posing as council officials asking for bank details under the guise of processing the refund.

“We wanted to make it clear that this is not something we do and that if people get a call like this they should hang up immediately,” he adds.

David Platts, customer services manager for Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick District Councils, said scammers began targeting elderly residents in his area two weeks ago.

“Council were shocked to start receiving calls from elderly and vulnerable residents who had been targeted by scammers seeking bank details on the promise to pay the £150 rebate into those accounts,” he says.

“It is a sad situation when a program aimed at helping those most in need of financial assistance with their fuel costs becomes a target for those who seek to use it as a way to fraudulently access bank accounts. of these people.”

Households are asked to remember that councils will never call and ask for residents’ bank details over the phone.

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