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Scam watch: the council tax band ruse

Council tax

If you were in the wrong band for council tax would you need to pay a company to reclaim the refund? No – but scammers would convince you otherwise.

Roger Abel told us: My 89-year-old father recently received a cold call by a company claiming that his council tax banding was too high. They said they would obtain a refund for him. He was asked to give his bank details to register a £65 fee to handle the administration and process the refund.

Luckily, he had his wits about him and realised it was a scam. It appears that this company is targeting elderly people. One of my father’s neighbours, who is 94 years old, paid the £65 fee to this company and had it refunded by her bank after reporting what had happened.

Our say on council tax scammers

We’re aware of a few claims management companies offering to challenge your council tax band on your behalf for a fee.

It appears that some may mislead people into believing they’re due a refund, or some may even take the fee without making any challenge to your local council. Often they’re very persistent and won’t take no for an answer.

We imagine that this company probably did make a challenge as its terms and conditions state that it will refund the £65 admin fee, and instead charge successful claimants a hefty chunk of their council tax rebate.

If you, or someone you know, get a similar call, we advise that you report them to Action Fraud and to the police.

If you want to challenge your council tax band, you can do it free of charge by contacting your local Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

Useful links

How to report a scam


This is not a dissimilar wheeze to the E111 health card. Once again, it’s worth implementing a simple rule: never act instantly and always, always consult with a trusted friend or family member before doing anything.


It’s the law of nature: for every opportunity there is an appropriate parasite.


This is just a sign of the times it is the cultural “spirit ” of the new age =dont give a sucker an even brake it will only get worse and will not stop . Many platitudes will be said but it boils down to the new society of get rich quick on the backs of the poor . Gone are the moral values of long ago of honesty and humanitarianism in its place is corruption /greed and slyness which are the value judgments from the top down. These values are imported to form a society of only caring for yourself its an enterprisal off-shoot of Western society along with hacking your computer for bank details and phishing emails nothing is going to get done about it because in doing so the new value society would be undermined and we cant have that can we ?


I think that is a very pessimistic outlook Duncan. History tells us that exploitation of the vulnerable has been going on for as long as human society has existed. It is more sophisticated now and there is more awareness but I don’t think it is out of proportion to the growth of the population and the greater civilisation of the world. I am constantly heartened by the good deeds that are done throughout society and the sense of community that does exist whereby people will look out for elderly or vulnerable neighbours.

To say that nothing is going to get done about it is to ignore the measures that have been taken to improve security, to prevent the misuse of personal data, and to thwart criminal activity. Times change and crimes change. Today we have to worry a lot more about our personal details being taken than about our homes being broken into. We have to be careful not to be taken advantage of. We can help people to avoid the scams and more can be done educate people. To some extent, in the subject of this Conversation, the opportunity to operate a scam is partly due to the complexity of the local tax system with the rating of properties carried out by an ‘invisible’ executive agency of government and the collection of the taxes by a local authority [in my case one of three that provide municipal services to our home and area – how is the citizen to know who does what?]. Where there is confusion there will be exploitation. We do need to do more to inform people and to protect them. I would suggest that any council receiving an application for a council tax refund or a re-banding of their property should check its source in the first instance and seek to uncover any improper practices. It is not illegal to apply for a council tax re-banding on behalf of a property owner and one would expect to pay for such a service. But if the approach is a con and there is no intention to put in an application then that is a criminal offence of obtaining money by false pretences. The best protection is to adopt Ian’s advice given in the first comment on this page.


John ,obviously you are not as old as me for I remember ,as a child not having to lock your door or youn could buy a standard front door key at the shop down the road . A single policeman was all that was needed in an area ,crime was mainly confined to gangs who werec well known and fought against each other but even then they had a sense of value and wouldnt attack the old/infirm/poor and no I didnt live in the country growing up . I have seen English values go through the floor because of media conditioning normally foreign to the values here its “dog eats dog ” now everybody is fair game to con/rob the most vulnerable in society I remember statements from well known gangs saying anybody hurting the old/infirm would be “taken care of ” . Now children are brought up at school to accept the new values which they think is normal war is rammed down their throats in computer games ,blood,gore,torture is now made to condition them to perpetual war so that killing is just a game , no John I abhor this new society it certainly isnt the values I grew up with. Just look at the increase in those taking anti-depressants even as children and those committing suicide in many cases because they cant afford what the media tell them they must buy to be accepted in society and of coarse we all must all be in debt ,mustn’t we to keep the banks (bankers ) in profit ?


Is this now off topic? Perhaps we should have a separate conversation “Is modern society fit for purpose”? Although as this is a consumers’ association, and much of the commenting verges on political, perhaps it would not fit in with Which?’s apolitical position.


Ah! So now its not just no political comments -okay– but not even “verging on the political” . This country and every country in the World is political every day the public pass political comments so even if you see a “bull in a china shop ” you ignore it and say-see no evil -hear no evil -speak no evil to deny the acts of any government dont hurt the 99 % is to lie by omission. So you cannot say anything against any government act ,but hold on comments have been made in the past on government decisions here why havent they been “struck down ” you cant have one law for one person and not for another unless you want to be accused of the accusations that this government applies to countries it thinks are “oppressive ” (only one point of view allowed ) .


This conversation is to talk about the council tax band ruse scam and other similar scams. Keeping on topic is one of the most important rules of Which? Conversation, which you can read about in our guidelines: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/ Please stick to the discussions at hand.


As far as I can see if you believe your council tax band is wrong you apply to the VOA (Valuation Office Agency) for rebanding. The service is free. If you disagree with their judgement you can appeal to a tribunal, again free.


The first thing to do is to decide why you think your valuation (based on 1991 valuation) might be wrong, by checking similar properties in your area. Or you property may have been modified since the valuation. Always the danger your band may go up of course.

Paying someone to do work on your behalf that may benefit you
is fair, if there is genuine work to be done. But responding to cold calling should be avoided – not many people are altruistic and really want to help you without being asked.

I would think that unless the caller has good grounds to expect your tax to be reduced they could be charged with fraud – or extracting money by false pretences. Perhaps a prosecution would not go amiss.


I read about a case recently where a resident applied for a reduction in the council tax banding because it was higher than all the other nearby properties that were the same as his. The outcome was that his banding was not reduced but all the other properties had theirs raised.

Perhaps it is in the verbiage on the back of the council tax bill but councils don’t seem to go out of their way to inform the public about what would qualify for a banding alteration, and being based on 1991 property valuations makes it even more opaque. Councils do, however, check planning consents and building regulations approvals to see whether a property’s value has been enhanced by development and they can apply to the VOA for a revaluation. A lot of people are unaware of the single person council tax discount [25%] although I believe this and other reliefs have to be explained in a leaflet sent with the council tax bill. Perhaps the banding review process is explained there as well – I haven’t noticed.


I believe there should be a very strong case not to let any organisation get involved with official services, such as council tax banding, passport renewal and various others that we have discussed in other Conversations. If permission to provide services is granted then it can be removed if the provider steps out of line.


Yet again the ability to part with money quickly seems to be biting consumers. Given that humans are susceptible to impulse it must be obvious that we are better off having a delay between impulse and payment.

There is an interesting paper on the massive addiction to playing the slot [poker] machines in Australia where the best psychology is being used to abstract money from the susceptible/gullible. And I believe, amazingly, that the same misuse of science is used elsewhere!

Perhaps if people chose only to use cheques and not cards then they would be protected , to a degree, from being flim-flammed. This particularly applies to many elderly as older people tend to grow more trusting, and to those who lack capacity.



…”older people tend to grow more trusting”

Are you certain about that? As people age they tend to become more cautious, which might suggest the opposite of being more trusting. But older people, perhaps living on their own if a partner has died and children have moved away, do seek the company of other people. If the person concerned also has limited mobility this can translate to them anticipating any ‘phone call or letter arrival as a way of breaking the monotony of their day.

But I agree that delaying even ephemeral gratification should be the priority.