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Residents are being advised to protect themselves against scam Council Tax calls.

Cllr Lee Mason, Portsmouth City Council Cabinet Member for Resources said: "Be wary of anyone calling claiming that you're in the wrong council tax band and offering to re-valuate it for a fee. It's likely to be a scam. You can have your home checked for free from the valuation office. Please make sure you let any vulnerable or elderly relatives or friends know as sadly scammers tend to target these people."

Examples of the tactics used by bogus agents to get you to part with your money include:

  • Charging an up-front fee with an added 20% of the reduction should they successfully reduce your council tax band
  • Insisting you are definitely in the wrong band and are owed back payments on your Council Tax bill, when in fact your band is correct
  • Saying they are from the local council or VOA and asking for your bank details so they can provide a refund. The fraudsters will then steal money from the bank account
  • Claiming that the VOA charges you to challenge your Council Tax band; this is not correct, you can do this for free
  • Claiming that taxpayers must, by law, be represented by an agent to challenge their band, when in fact anyone can do this
  • Stating that they are on an approved list of agents recognised by the VOA, when in fact the VOA does not keep any such list

How to avoid falling victim to this scam:

DO

  • Remember that you can have your band checked free of charge by contacting the Valuation Office Agency
  • Confirm over the phone with a cold-caller’s head office to check that they are legitimate. Ensure that if the cold-caller used the telephone, your last call ended properly before redialling the number
  • If you receive a call offering to reduce your band, make sure you are getting a dial-tone before calling the council or the VOA to check their story
  • Inform the police if you believe that anyone is impersonating staff from your local council or the VOA
  • Dial 999 if a doorstep cold-caller refuses to leave your home
  • Contact your local Trading Standards office if you feel you have been the victim of a Council Tax scam

DON’T

  • Give your bank details to anyone
  • Let anyone into your home without seeing appropriate identification
  • Feel under pressure from a cold-caller to pay an immediate up-front fee. Take the time you need to think about it
  • Accept cold callers’ claims about your band without seeing evidence or proof of what they are claiming
  • Deal with anyone that is reluctant to give you their company address or contact details

If you feel that your Council Tax band for your home is wrong, then all you have to do is contact the Valuation Office Agency and explain why you think it is incorrect. We will ask you to confirm that the details we hold about your home are correct. We will listen to your views and if, following a review, we agree that your band is wrong, we will change it. Please note that bands can occasionally go up as well as down.