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The TV Licensing scam that’s cost victims £200,000: how to spot it

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Action Fraud is warning the public to look out for fake TV Licensing emails after it received 200 reports in December alone, with victims reporting a total loss of £233,455.

The anti-fraud watchdog said the scam can lead to criminals draining bank accounts and committing identity fraud.

It said the new wave of TV Licensing phishing emails are part of a larger fraud, in which criminals are calling victims and claiming to be bank employees and convincing them to part with their money.

How the scam works

Fraudsters send out fake TV Licence emails regarding refunds and payment issues. They use subject lines such as ‘correct your licensing information’, ‘billing information updates’ and ‘renew now’ to trick people into clicking on the link within the email.

Once victims have clicked the link, they are led to a convincing looking TV Licencing website designed to harvest as much personal and financial information as possible from them.

Within a week or two, the victim will receive a phone call from the fraudster claiming to be from the fraud department of the victim’s bank. Fraudsters are convincing victims they are genuine banking staff by using the personal details the victim provided through the fake website.

The fraudsters then claim the victim’s account has been compromised and they need to transfer their money to a new “safe account”.

What Action Fraud says

“Bank staff and police officers will never ask you to move money to a safe account,” said the watchdog’s director, Pauline Smith.

“It is also important that you never click on links in emails you were not expecting. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please report it to us.”

What TV Licensing says

A spokesperson said: “We’re continuing to work closely with Action Fraud to raise awareness of the scam emails circulating to the public, posing as genuine TV Licensing communications. 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.

“Anyone who has provided their details as a result of a fraudulent email should report it to Action Fraud. If they have provided bank details, they should call their bank urgently. TV Licensing offers helpful information on scam emails at the following link: www.tvlicensing.co.uk/scam.”

How to protect yourself from fraudulent emails

  • Never answer unsolicited emails from TV Licensing. The organisation will never email you, unprompted, to tell you that you’re entitled to a refund or ask for bank details/personal information.
  • Don’t assume a phone call or email is authentic. Just because someone knows your basic details (such as your name or address), it doesn’t mean they are genuine. Criminals can easily spoof the phone numbers and email addresses of companies you know and trust.
  • Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information, and never click on the links and attachments in emails or texts you receive out of the blue.
  • Your bank will never call and ask you for your PIN, full banking password, or ask you to transfer money out of your account.

What to do if you’ve fallen victim

  • Let your bank know as soon as possible and monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
  • If you suspect your identity may have been stolen you can check your credit file quickly and easily online. You should do this every few months anyway using a reputable service provider and following up on any unexpected or suspicious results.
  • Every report matters and if you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it online or by calling 0300 123 2040.