Conmen target elderly residents in Edinburgh '˜garden tax' scam

ELDERLY Capital residents have been targeted by conmen claiming to be from the council and asking for their card details to pay the new 'garden tax'.

A new scam has launched around the so called 'garden tax'
A new scam has launched around the so called 'garden tax'

Two widows were both rung up by a man who said they could pay the £25 annual charge for garden waste collection over the phone.

But today the council stressed it is not phoning people to ask them to pay the charge. And police urged anyone receiving such a call to contact them so they can investigate.

Free collection of brown bins will end on October 5, except for people on council tax benefit. Everyone who wants to continue to receive the service must register by July 22.

The council wants people to pay online but for those unable to do so it was initially posting them terms and conditions and phoning them to take payment.

But Tories argued the system was “fundamentally flawed” because anyone could phone, pretending to be from the council and obtain people’s card details. The council then said it would only take payments via incoming calls.

Allister McKillop, chair of Currie community council, said he had been contacted about two elderly ladies who had received calls about the garden waste charge from a man claiming to be from the council. He said: “I got an e-mail from a woman saying her mum had got this phone call from someone saying they were from City of Edinburgh Council and they realised how 
difficult it was to pay the charge and they were now happy to take payment over the phone if she could give them her card details.

“Luckily the lady said ‘I’m not sure, let me phone my daughter first’ and her daughter told her not to do it.

“Another lady had a similar call and just ignored it – it was someone saying they were from the council, accepting the fact there was a difficulty paying the fee and they were happy to take the payment over the phone. I’m very concerned about it. When it comes to scams, if there are two phone calls you know there has to be a lot more than that.”

Jason Rust, Conservative councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, said: “This is really unfortunate and sadly what we predicted could happen. There is increasing anger that council processes are leaving potentially vulnerable citizens open to fraud and malpractice.”

The council tweeted: “Please be aware of scams – we never make cold calls to customers for payment and no calls are being made by council teams requesting payment for the new garden waste service.”

Environment convener Lesley Macinnes said: “We would always encourage the public to be aware of cold callers, who may target homes claiming to represent the council.

“Residents should be extra vigilant when requested for payment by an unknown caller – the council would never cold call homes without making prior contact.”

Police said they were aware of the issue but had not had direct reports of incidents. A spokeswoman said: “If anyone receives a call like this, they should report it to us by dialling 101 and we will investigate.”