Sutton residents warned of 'phishing' scam

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Residents of the London Borough of Sutton are being warned to be wary of a 'phishing' scam run by fraudsters who claim to be working for Sutton Council.

The fraud aims to get people to give out their bank account details by convincing them they are on the wrong council tax band and are owed money.

The conmen claim to be working for a company which collects council tax on behalf of the council. However, the authority collects council tax directly from residents and does not employ firms to do it for them.

The calls are made by telephone and not in person, which is already something, and I would suggest you are always wary of any cold called and simply do not speak to them.

The victim, from Wallington, who was targeted by the cold caller, said: "A man called claiming he was working for the council and said that I was on the wrong tax band and could get money refunded to me if I confirmed my bank details. It was obvious it was a con, so I hung up and informed trading standards about what was going on."

Cllr Simon Wales, Executive Member for Communities, Transport and Voluntary Sector on Sutton Council, said: "Luckily as far as we know this scam hasn't been successful in getting residents to give out their bank details.

"I would like to thank the resident who came forward and alerted us to this scam. People should be very careful about the information they give out over the phone and they should never pass on bank details to a cold caller. If the council requires personal information we will provide a number for residents to call."

The council does not determine which households are included within each council tax banding. These decisions are made by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which is part of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, so the 'phishers' even had done their research incorrectly.

While this is something that, in this case, has happened in the London Borough of Sutton it may be something that fraudsters may try, or am trying, in other areas.

So, please everyone be careful and beware of any telephone cold callers. Cold callers at your door? Request their ID card and contact the issuer as to whether this person is one of theirs and authorized to be calling on you.

Any bona fide council worker in the UK will have at least a staff identity card and should be willing to show them to you and even be able to give you a number to call to verify their credential.

© 2010