Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge residents have this week been warned to be vigilant as an ‘identity theft phone scam’ has been reported in the area.

Sedgemoor District Council is warning residents not to be taken in by a company claiming to be acting on behalf of the council.

“Residents have told us that GSM Marketing – 0203 861633 – have called them and is charging a £150 up-front fee, which is taken from the residents’ bank accounts, in return for ‘lowering their council tax band’,” says Claire Faun, a spokeswoman for Sedgemoor District Council.

“This is not a phone call from Sedgemoor District Council – do not give anyone your bank account details. Council Tax bands are set by the Valuation Office Agency and can only be changed under certain conditions.”

“Details can be found online and if you think your band is wrong, you can contact the Valuation Office Agency to use the free service.”

The council adds: “If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax bill and need help, speak with a member of the Council Tax Team on 0300 303 7801 who will be able to offer help and advice.”

“If you have given over personal details, we would advise you to call the Police straight away on 101 and report the matter as an identity theft scam. The Police will also direct you to the Action Fraud helpline on 0300 123 2040.”

Paul Thomas, Head of Somerset Trading Standards, added: “Scams are becoming more and more sophisticated. Criminals are coming up with new and quite innovative ways to fool people into giving up their hard cash, personal information or other data.”

“Many fall victim to scams. There’s no shame in that because scams can look so credible. And yet we don’t like to talk about it, even though talking about it raises awareness of scams and is actually one of best ways of preventing these crimes.”

Age UK research found that around two-fifths of older people across the UK – around five million people – who believed that they’d fallen victim to scams, didn’t report it to an official channel. Many said they’d not reported it because they felt too embarrassed.

Seventy-five is the average age of reported scam victims. Figures from National Trading Standards show that older people are deliberately targeted, and fall victim most to phone and mail scams. The over 70s group sees the largest proportion of people who are recurring victims of scams.

There’s also evidence that the number of under 25s becoming victim to scams is rising; fuelled possibly by an over-confidence in using new digital technology, making them complacent and increasingly vulnerable.