BOGUS COUNCIL OFFICIAL ROASTS CHEF WITH COOKED-UP STORY / HOW TO HIT BACK AT TAX FRAUD PHONE CALLS / TRADERS WARNED TO DISPOSE OF WASTE CAREFULLY
A man claiming to be a council official has conned a Croydon restaurant out of £280 after weaving a plausible story of an outstanding debt and a steep fine if it remained unpaid.
Now Croydon council are warning traders and residents to be alert and remember that NO council official would ever ask for an on-the-spot cash settlement.
In the latest example of a well-worn scam, a man presented himself at the restaurant, quickly showing an ID card and claiming that he was a food safety inspector, there to collect an unpaid fine owing from the last inspection.
He said the fine had been levied for breach of health and safety regulations and, if not paid immediately, would increase to £600.
His knowledge of the offence and trading name of the company convinced the chef that he was genuine, and the chef duly handed over £280.
Cllr David Wood, Croydon’s deputy cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said: “This is doorstep crime that can happen at a business or residence – and is extremely serious.
“Posing as a trusted official in order to con money out of somebody makes it even more offensive.
“Everybody should always be cautious of cold callers offering any kind of service, and especially if they’re demanding some sort of payment.
“Criminals look to take advantage of trusting, unsuspecting people and that’s why I stress the importance of everybody always being vigilant and reporting any suspicious visitors they may have.”
Anybody contacted by somebody claiming to be a council officer – in person, by telephone or letter – can check their identity by calling the local authority concerned; the number of Croydon Council’s call centre is 020 8726 6000.
Any alternative number suggested by the caller should not be called; only the council’s listed number should be called to confirm an officer’s details. (Source: Croydon council press release)
HIT BACK AT TAX FRAUD PHONE CALLS
Reports are still coming in about frauds on the phone all over the UK. One example is scammers telling residents to claim for a refund on their Council Tax.
Callers will say that to claim your Council Tax rebate, they just need your bank details…
“Get your money back”
Next, the fraudster will ask for an “admin fee” to claim the refund. Police forces report this “fee” varies between £60 and £350 in different parts of the UK – but it’s always “pay in advance”. If the fraud works, the victim provides their bank details and makes the payment, but then is no longer able to contact the person who called them.
Check with the council
Next step is the resident contacts their council to report: “I’ve just been told I’ve been overpaying in the wrong Council Tax bracket for years – I’m trying to claim my money back”. The council will confirm it’s a fraud.
Don’t let frauds fool you
Lambeth Council Tax team will never call you out of the blue asking for your bank details. If we want to talk to you about Council Tax we will write, email or send you an SMS text message first.
No council or any other legal organisation will ever ask you to pay anything in advance.
Don’t forget the council already has your bank details if you pay by Direct Debit.
If you get any phone call about Council Tax, try to write down the caller’s phone number.
If you get a call about “the wrong tax bracket”, take a number and say you’ll call back. Try using a different phone, waiting 10 minutes or phoning a friend to make sure the scammer isn’t keeping the line open.
Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool. You will get a crime number – this is attempted fraud – which is as much of a crime as if they took money from you.
Call your bank or credit card issuer to report attempted fraud.
Only the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) – a department of HMRC can change your Council Tax banding. If you want to have your Council tax reviewed you need to make an appeal to VOA online.
For more information
Follow the Take Five campaign online for lots of helpful ideas to help keep you out of the scam trap – it’s backed by UK police forces.
See more about identity theft and other scams on the Action Fraud website
You can now also sign up for free to Action Fraud Alert to receive direct, verified, accurate information about scams and fraud in your area by email, recorded voice and text message. (Source: Lambeth council’s Love Lambeth website)
TRADERS WARNED TO DISPOSE OF WASTE CAREFULLY
Businesses are being warned to dispose of their trade waste carefully – and check the credentials of people who offer to remove it.
The warning follows prosecution of a café owner who paid an acquaintance to dispose of his business waste who then fly-tipped it near a bridleway in Green Street Green – and landed the cafe owner with fines and costs totalling £530.
Several bags of fly-tipped waste were found by a local Street Friend* who reported it to the council. After making a statement and following further investigations, the café owner was identified and successfully prosecuted.
As a ‘thank you’, an Enviro-crime Reward of up to £500 could be given for their help and assistance. Find out more at www.bromley.gov.uk/envirocrime
Bromley magistrates court heard that on New Year’s Eve last year the café owner, who said he’d been having problems with Lewisham council collecting his waste, paid £40 to an acquaintance to get rid of five bags of rubbish produced by the café.
He was not asked if he was legally registered with the Environment Agency to carry waste and no documentation was obtained to cover its removal. The waste was found dumped the same day.
“All legitimate waste carriers carry an Environment Agency certificate of registration which businesses and residents should ask to see before handing over their waste” said a Bromley council spokesperson.
“A waste transfer note – a written description of the waste – must be provided which should be kept as proof of the transfer.
The council offers a business waste disposal service with a choice of container to suit individual needs. Collections can be as frequently as needed and businesses can be sure that arrangements comply with all legislation. More information is available at www.bromley.gov.uk//businesswaste
Businesses wishing to dispose of their own waste must be registered as a waste carrier with the Environment Agency www.gov.uk/waste-carrier-or-broker-registration first. They can then take their waste to a licensed disposal facility where a fee will be charged according to weight.
Businesses wanting to have their waste collected can use the council’s business waste collection service or they must use a person or company legally registered as a waste carrier.
Find and check registered waste carriers at www.bromley.gov.uk/wastecarriers or call the Environment Agency hotline on 03708 506 506.
A waste transfer note should always be obtained as proof of transfer to an authorised person or company and failure to do so could mean prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000.
Bromley council’s executive member for environment Cllr Colin Smith said: “All businesses of whatever size should have waste agreements in place to ensure their waste is dealt with responsibly and legally.
“Although this café is not in the borough, most councils – including Bromley – provide a business waste service so there really can be no excuse whatsoever for such behaviour.”
*Street Friends are people who care about the street environment and want to make the street you live in or regularly use a clean and safe place. For more information please Google Bromley.gov ‘Street Friend’ (Source: Bromley council press release)