Hartlepool council officials have issued advice after receiving complaints about unsolicited telephone calls from a company claiming to help reduce council tax bills.
The council's Trading Standards Team has received a number of reports from residents who have had calls from a London-based company which claims that the resident’s property has been placed in the wrong council tax band and they have paid too much.
It then tells the resident that they are owed a significant refund - typically thousands of pounds - in an effort to entice them into agreeing to use the company’s services.
The resident is asked to pay £150 up front. Then, usually a few days later, paperwork arrives for the resident to complete, requesting details of their property along with an authorisation form allowing the company to operate on the resident’s behalf when dealing with HM Revenue & Customs Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
The council said in a statement: "While the company may in fact assist in the process, the Trading Standards Team has concerns because a resident can actually contact the VOA directly and free of charge if they have any concerns that their property has been incorrectly banded for Council Tax.
"It would also appear that the claims being made by the company about the refunds due to residents are wildly exaggerated and it is always a possibility that a property could have been banded too low for Council Tax, meaning that the rates would actually need to increase.
"The Trading Standards Team is therefore urging residents to contact the VOA directly if they have any concerns that their property is incorrectly banded for Council Tax. The VOA can be contacted on 03000 501501."
Anyone who has had a similar call or any other suspicious calls can contact Hartlepool Trading Standards on (01429) 523362