While lockdown is bringing out the best in people, it’s also a breeding ground for online crooks callously taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the beginning of May, members of the public passed on more than 160,000 suspect emails to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) with more than 1,400 links to scams removed.
Phishing emails reported to the NCSC include attempts by criminals to exploit the coronavirus crisis through fake offers of face masks and testing kits.
These emails include mock-ups of official GOV.uk and TV Licensing websites where visitors are lured into giving their billing information to scammers posing as these legitimate organisations.
The NCSC is advising people to be vigilant as the TV Licensing scam email looks legitimate and is dropping into more inboxes every day.
Some of the emails demand victims renew their TV License immediately because their direct debit has been declined or the payment details are out of date.
Recipients are told they will be fined if they fail to pay.
Other emails state that the TV License holder has overpaid and is due a refund.
This is a common phishing scam often seen around the start of the new tax year in April, claiming that recipients are owed a tax refund.
Phishing emails try to catch the reader off guard by panicking you into taking immediate action, without checking the facts first.
The TV Licensing Company has advice for all customers on its website which states that: “The genuine TV Licensing Company will never email you to tell you that you’re entitled to a refund, or offer you a discounted TV License.”
The TV Licensing Company has suggested four ways to help you spot a scam email:
Check the sender’s email address – scammers will try to disguise their email address because they normally can’t use a genuine TV Licensing one. The official company will use firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com) to email you
Check how scammers address you – it’s hardly ever by name. Genuine TV Licensing emails will always use your title and last name. Scammers may simply use your email address, or say ‘Dear Customer’ or nothing at all
Check links in the email – do not click on links or attachments. If you’re unsure, you can inspect links first. On a computer, hover over the link with your mouse (but don’t click it). On a mobile or tablet, press down and hold (don’t release whilst on the link).
Check addresses of any websites it takes you to – scammers can’t use ‘www.tvlicensing.co.uk’ for fake websites so they’ll try to disguise this by making a tiny spelling mistake or adding a change so small it looks genuine at first glance. Another way is to bury the website name at the end of a longer one which has .tvlicensing.co.uk. near the start.
If you receive any email that you suspect is a scam, simply forward suspect emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If they are found to link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked, helping prevent future victims of crime.
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