In the UK, an email phishing scam, claiming to be from TV Licensing has been picking up steam as increasing numbers of people report it to Action Fraud.
Over the past three months more than 5,000 people have complained to the cyber crime organisation. However, it’s likely that the number of people that have received the email is much higher.
How the fraud works
The phishing mails use headers that say "Correct your licensing information" and "Your TV licence expires today." That said they can also differ but the message remains the same that the email recipient urgently needs to go to the TV Licensing website to claim a refund or make a payment.
- Whichever type of email is received the website is a fake.
- Its aim is to siphon banking information and personal details.
- The website requests that victims provide payment details, including bank account number, sort code, and card verification value (CVV) code on the back of their card.
- It also sometimes asks for a victim's name, date of birth, address, phone number, email and possibly even their mother's maiden name.
Armed with this information the cyber criminals would be equipped with enough information to pull off convincing identity theft ranging from bank loans to credit cards, hire purchase goods such as vehicles, even mortgages and also go on an online shopping spree.
TV licensing advice
The TV licensing authority said: "TV Licensing will never email customers, unprompted, to ask for bank details, personal information or tell you that you may be entitled to a refund."
It added: “If you have any doubts whether an email has come from us, you can visit the TV Licensing website directly by typing tvlicensing.co.uk into your web browser or you can use our other contact details,” which can be found here.
Detecting the TV license email scam
There are a few pointers to watch out for to identify these scam emails:
- Check whether the sender's email address looks like one TV Licensing would use.
- If the email subject line from the purported TV Licensing address includes phrases such as "Action required" or "Security alert" it should be treated with caution.
- Also look out for grammatical errors. This would strongly indicate that it is a scam and that the sender is not a native English speaker.
- If the email seems too casual, familiar or informal it should also be treated with caution.
- Does the link in the email go through to the official TV Licensing website? You can check the real website here.
More generally the points listed above can also be used to identify other email scams claiming to be from established organisations.
If you are suspicious about the authenticity of any email keep the following in mind:
- Established organisations and companies never email customers and ask for bank details, personal information and other sensitive details such as passwords.
- If you suspect an email might be from a scammer, do not click on any links or open any attachments in the email.
- Scammers may trick you into installing viruses or giving away your personal and bank details on a fake, fraudulent or scam website, as the TV License emails illustrate.
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- You simply enter the details you want to protect such as bank account numbers and sort code, payment card details, name and address, driving license and passport numbers, email address and so on.
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- It safeguards against all types of fraud in the event of cyber criminals using stolen information. This could be credit card numbers hacked from a transactional website or personal information like names, addresses and passport numbers hacked from a company databases.