TV Licensing chiefs and Sussex Police have warned the public to be on their guard as fraudsters have been sending out thousands of authentic-looking but bogus TV licence payment demands by email.
Police fraud expert PC Bernadette Lawrie said: “We continue to see a large number of fake TV Licensing emails being sent and are warning people to be cautious if they find themselves contacted unexpectedly.
“There have been minor changes to the messaging and links in these emails, with some now referencing the covid-19 outbreak.
“The emails being reported recently claim the recipient’s direct debit has failed and that they must renew their direct debit to avoid prosecution.
“Some of these emails have been personalised to make them look more authentic so please stop to take the time to confirm if a request is genuine by contacting the company directly.”
TV Licensing, which collects the licence fee on behalf of the BBC, said: “In common with other large organisations, TV Licensing has seen fraudsters sending scam emails to the public posing as genuine TV Licensing communications.
“We would like to remind customers to be extra careful when considering whether to enter their personal information.
“If you are unsure about an email you’ve received, you can sign in to your licence online at tvl.co.uk to check your licence and payment plan details.
“Genuine TV Licensing emails are personalised to include details such as your name, partial postcode or licence number and will be sent from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
“Many scams simply use your email address or say ‘Dear Customer’ and may use a made-up postcode or licence number, so check carefully.
“For further information on how to spot and report scam emails please visit tvl.co.uk/scam.
“If you submitted card or bank details after responding to a scam email then you should contact your bank urgently and report it to Action Fraud.”
PC Lawrie, the financial abuse safeguarding officer for Sussex Police, said: “Typically in Sussex we are seeing approximately four reports to Action Fraud a week, with the majority thankfully not parting with any funds.”
Recently a 67-year-old woman in Worthing lost £6,900 to this fraud and another victim, from Eastbourne, suffered a significant loss.
While people in Brighton and Hove have been targeted by the fraudsters, so far no one has contacted the police to report losing money as a result of the scam.
PC Lawrie added: “You can report suspicious emails by forwarding the original message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“An automated system will scan the email and if malicious links are found, the associated website will be taken down.
“Remember, criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.
“They spend hours researching with the hope you’ll let your guard down for just a moment and be caught out so please be careful.”
Sussex Police said: “Fraudsters can contact you by phone, email, text, on social media or in person and may try to trick you into parting with your money, personal information or buying goods or services that don’t exist.
“If you are approached unexpectedly remember to
- Stop – Taking a moment to think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- Challenge – Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Protect – Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
“The police, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account. They will also never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN (personal identification number).
“Do not click on links or attachments in unexpected or suspicious texts or emails.
“Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly.
“To help keep yourself safe online, ensure you are using the latest software and operating systems on your devices.”