DIM-witted tricksters got more than they bargained for when they offered to secure a council tax refund - for the man who sets the borough’s council tax rates.
A flurry of emails, which appeared to be from the council, were sent to residents claiming the recipient had been placed in the wrong council tax band and was entitled to a refund.
But when one of the messages landed in Ian Roberts’ inbox, he immediately identified it as a scam.
Not only is Mr Roberts St Helens Council’s top financial officer, he is the man whose job it is to set council tax rates for the entire borough.
As someone perhaps more familiar with the minutiae of local council tax rules than anyone else in the borough, he immediately recognised the email as nothing more than a brazen scam.
“Obviously this is a total scam but unfortunately it may take some people in,” said Coun Jeff Fletcher, cabinet member for Finance and Corporate Services. “St Helens Council never text or email residents in this way to request personal information.”
Sent from the address REFUND@direct.gov.uk so as to give the impression of being from an official government source, the email scam has now been reported to the police.
Council officials decided to go public in the hope it would alert residents to the dangers of responding to unsolicited emails.
And they point out St Helens Council, which calculates council tax and distributes rebates, never contacts residents via email asking for bank account details.
Coun Fletcher added: “If refunds are due or there is any change in your bill then statements will be sent through the post. We either refund the money direct if you pay by direct debit or by cheque sent to the bill payer’s address.
“At all times you should be very wary in giving out your bank or credit card details.”