Norfolk residents urged not to fall victim to the council tax con
Hundreds of people in and around the Norwich have been targeted in a council tax con aimed at getting them to hand over their bank details.
Organised call-centre staff, believed to be based overseas, are believed to be behind the elaborate scheme which sees them calling people pretending to be council tax staff telling them that they have been going through their records and have discovered that they are entitled to a rebate worth thousands of pounds.
But the scheme is an elaborate hoax and in fact the fraudsters then ask for bank account details.
Today there was a united call from council staff, police and Norfolk Trading Standards, urging residents not to fall victim to the hoax.
Simon Woodbridge, member champion for crime reduction and community safety at Broadland District Council, said he was concerned that it could become a Norfolk-wide problem and urged all residents to be on their guard.
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'This is quite an organised scam,' he said. 'It seems like a call-centre is being used to work through a database of residential properties. They are phoning up claiming to be from a council tax department and many people have been unnerved by the telephone conversations.
'These are times when money is tight and that might make people take risks they wouldn't otherwise do, but people need to be aware that there is no going back - once you have given these people details of your financial affairs, they move very swiftly to do damage and take the money out.'
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Moira Goodey, from Eversley Road, Hellesdon, was one of those targeted.
The 59-year-old, who is a manager at mental health charity Mind, and a former Broadland councillor, said she became suspicious when the caller claimed to be from the 'council tax department' but would not say which local authority he was from.
'We had been having these phone calls for a couple of days, and when I eventually picked up he was asking me things about my council tax, but wouldn't say where he was from,' she said. 'When I kept asking he become very sharp and just said, 'council tax'. I asked him for his name and said I would call him back and he started getting quite abusive, he raised his voice and kept telling me to shut up. He kept asking about my council tax and bank details, I told him that as soon as I hung up I would report the conversation to the police and as soon as I said that I hung up.
'I used to be a councillor at Broadland and I knew nobody would speak anybody like that. For a vulnerable person it could have been quite awful.'
Angi Doy, Broadland District Council spokeswoman, said the authority had been inundated with calls from concerned residents.
'Hundreds of residents are being targeted by scammers trying to capture their bank details,' she said. 'The scale of the operation leads us to assume that some residents may have been duped and may have given over their private banking information. The telephone campaign has gone on for many weeks and we have been inundated with calls from residents who have seen through the scam and have wanted us to warn others.
'The scam is organised and systematic, but it sounds credible because they ring and already know some of your details, but what they are trying to do is get people to go further and give out more details.
'What we say to people at Broadland is that if you are in any doubt over whether it's someone at Broadland, take their name, hang up and ring back through our switchboard - if we haven't heard of them, they don't work here.'
Steven Reilly, spokesman for Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, said: 'We are aware that some Norfolk consumers have been receiving calls from a company claiming to offer an �8,000 rebate on their council tax.'
A Norfolk Constabulary spokesperson said: 'Our advice to members of the public is to never give your bank details out over the phone. A professional company would never operate in such a manner. If you are unsure, stop the call and contact the company directly yourself.'
Anyone experiencing problems with bogus callers, or needing further advice, can call the national consumer helpline - Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.
Anyone concerned about suspicious activity in their area should contact Norfolk Constabulary on 0845 456 4567. In an emergency always dial 999.
Have you been targeted by the council tax con?
Contact reporter Shaun Lowthorpe on 01603 772471 or email email@example.com