Scammers are targeting Croydon companies with the promise of healthy business-rate rebates and then disappearing with the initial fee handed over by their victims.
Croydon Council’s trading standards team is investigating the matter and, in addition to warning local businesses to be wary of such offers, telling them that a direct appeal to the council can be made free of charge.
The scam came to light when an Addiscombe-based firm was approached by a company claiming that it could claw back business rates paid over the past five years.
The scammers asked for an upfront fee, for preparing and submitting the valuation reports for the appeals process, followed by 5% of any rates savings they could achieve.
The scam usually sees the conmen taking the fee, failing to carry out any of the promised work and becoming uncontactable. On this occasion, however, the business was aware of the ploy and refused to pay up.
“Fortunately, the owner of this business had his wits about him and didn’t hand over any money – he rightly suspected the chances were good that he’d never see it, nor any work, again.
“Businesses should be aware that it costs nothing for them to directly appeal with the council against their rateable value.
“Before employing a rating adviser, you should check that they have the necessary knowledge and expertise, as well as appropriate indemnity insurance. Take great care and, if necessary, seek further advice before entering into any contract.”
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for safety and justice
Businesses can get further information on how to lodge an appeal by calling the council’s business rates team on 020 8726 7000.
For further information and advice on how to avoid being scammed, contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.
Alternatively, download the Metropolitan Police’s The Little Book of Big Scams Business Edition from www.met.police.uk/docs/little_book_big_scams_business_edition.pdf