Action Fraud is warning the public about fraudsters that are using the name of the British Council to trick businesses and individuals into handing over money.
We have had several reports about fraudsters who are approaching businesses in person and individuals over the phone and tricking them into paying a fine or license.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, it does not collect council tax fines or issues licenses.
Fraudsters are turning up at shops citing a range of reasons to get small businesses to part with their cash. This includes tricking them into paying for fake; alcohol licenses, massage licenses, operations licenses, council tax licenses and business rates.
Once a victim has paid, the fraudsters issue an official looking receipt. In one receipt that was flagged by a business in Brighton, £300 cash was requested by enforcement agent “2721 Richards”.
Businesses should always contact their local council to apply for a licence. It appears fraudsters are exploiting this knowledge gap and are targeting shops that are not aware of this process.
If you are approached by anyone in person claiming to be from the British Council, don’t give them any money and report it to us. If you’re unsure, get in touch with your local council to confirm.
Individuals who are looking for loans are also being targeted. In one case reported to us a woman was called by fraudsters who offered her a £1,000 loan with a set-up fee of £199.
The woman agreed to the terms and paid the set-up fee. She was then told she had to pay an additional £220 to verify the loan through the British Council.
The fraudsters then transferred two separate payments totalling £175 back into the victims account and told her this was to check her account was “working”. To finalise the process they then told the victim to transfer it back. The loan was never given and the victim lost all her money.
When applying for a loan you should only deal with authorised firms that are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
An FCA authorised firm will not ask you for an upfront payment before giving you a loan. If you deal with an unauthorised firm you won’t be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service if things go wrong.
Check the FCA’s Financial Services Register to see if a firm is regulated by us, and check that the contact details are the same.
A spokesperson for the British Council said: “The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It does not do door-to-door visits, collect business and council tax, nor issue TV licenses.
“We take the misuse of our logo extremely seriously and this has already been reported within our organisation.”