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St Helens trading standards on alert after tax refund approaches
5:20am Wednesday 4th December 2013 in News
SCAMMERS are targeting individuals and businesses offering to assist them claim refunds from St Helens Council.
The Council’s Trading Standards team is warning people to be alert after concerned residents contacted the council after receiving unsolicited telephone calls from people claiming to be either from a company - or the council itself.
Those approached claimed they were told they were entitled to council tax refunds worth hundreds of pounds.
Explanations ranged from residents failing to claim benefits that were due to them – such as a single person’s allowance – to properties being in the wrong council tax band.
The caller offered to help lodge a claim but demanded a payment of £160 first and wanted ‘25 to 50 per cent of any money recovered’.
Now the authority is concerned that vulnerable residents may be paying for a service which can be carried out free of charge.
Councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, Cabinet Member for Environment and Neighbourhoods, said: “The message is simple – do not pay for this service!
“You do not need to employ a company to claim back council tax overpayments!
“Anybody who thinks they have been paying more Council Tax than they should of can have their case reviewed - and it’s completely free!”
To enquire about benefits or refunds on council tax contact the council’s revenue and benefits contact centre on 01744 676666.
If residents believe their property is in the wrong council tax band, they need to contact the Valuation Office on 03000 501501.
Trading watchdogs are urging residents who receive unsolicited calls never to give their card or bank details out over the phone.
Darrell Wilson, Chief Trading Standards Officer, said: “If anyone does agree to a home visit to discuss a claim, they should always remember the company is obliged to provide a notice advising consumers that they have a seven day cooling off period. The company has to give people written notice clearly explaining how they can cancel the agreement if they change their mind.”
Anyone approached by one of these companies – or who feels they might be the victim of a similar scam - should contact Citizens Advice on 08454 040506.
For more information about scams and how to avoid being a victim residents can visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
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