Beware Housing Benefit Phone Scam

Council warns residents to stay alert for tricksters asking for banking and personal details

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Confidence tricksters are targeting borough residents by using a telephone scam to try and steal money from their bank accounts, town hall finance chiefs are warning.
 
People are being telephoned at home by fraudsters who are pretending to be either council tax or housing benefit officials. These con-artists are using the promise of tax or benefit rebates to obtain residents' bank details and other sensitive personal information. Armed with this important data, the fraudsters are then able to milk their victim's bank accounts.
 
In one case reported to the Council earlier this week the fraudsters telephoned an elderly resident and informed him that he was due a housing benefit rebate of some £1,300 - which could only be paid if he revealed his bank account details.
 
The resident later realised that he may have fallen victim to a scam and contacted staff at his bank. They told him that his account had been emptied of just under £100. Fortunately the bank has reimbursed the resident and is understood to have launched an investigation to find out where the stolen money was transferred.
 
Now finance officials are urging people to be on their guard against such cons and are advising them never to reveal sensitive personal information to unknown people over the phone.
 
The council's director of finance Chris Buss says: "These calls are a complete and utter con. People should not be taken in by them - and they should never give any sensitive personal information like bank account details or their date of birth to people who ring up out of the blue.
 
"No genuine town hall employee would ever make such a call and it would simply not be necessary for us to have your bank account details for this purpose.
 
"My advice to anyone who gets these calls is refuse to tell them anything at all and simply hang up."
 
Anyone receiving this kind of telephone call is strongly advised to report the matter to the council's trading standards team on (020) 8871 7720 or by emailing tradingstandards@wandsworth.gov.uk


February 3rd, 2011