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Beware the resurgence of TV Licence scams

We’ve been shown as many as four different TV licence phishing emails in the last few weeks. Here’s exactly what they look like – have you received one?

We know that periods of uncertainty and distress can be a magnet for scammers – that’s why we had to issue a scam warning during the collapse of Thomas Cook.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, things couldn’t be more uncertain, so it’s no surprise to see fraudsters attempting to take advantage.

Kate Bevan has put together a comprehensive guide on how to spot and stop coronavirus fraud after the City of London Police reported a 400% increase in scams.

With many of us now at home looking for ways to stay entertained, perhaps we also shouldn’t be surprised to see scammers trying their luck with a tried and tested method; TV Licence phishing emails.

As of March last year, this type of scam had cost victims more than £830,000.

TV Licence scam examples

We’ve been sent four different examples of these fake emails in the last few weeks. Here’s what you need to watch out for:

Clearly some of these are better crafted than others, but the variety and frequency with which they’re being sent to people at such an uncertain time makes them dangerous.

Our phishing emails advice

As always, we’d urge everyone to always be on the lookout for the tell-tale signs of a scam email.

All of these examples are trying to rush you into clicking through to a fake website which will ask for your bank details.

Always double check the sender’s email address, the wording and the branding used. If an email has made you feel uneasy, go with your gut and contact the company it’s purporting to be from via its official channels.

If you think you may have been a victim of this scam, contact your bank immediately and let it know what’s happened.

Our guide also explains how you can get your money back after a scam.

Have you noticed an increase in phishing emails lately? If so, get in contact in the comments and let us know what you’ve seen.

John says:
10 April 2020

I received one of these emails at the end of March. It addressed me as Dear (email)@btinternet.com which immediately started alarm bells ringing as most companies now address you by your name. I just deleted it. I pay by direct debit and the payments are still going out of the bank each month without a problem so it is obviously a scam!

JohnC says:
10 April 2020

I’ve received 3 of these in the last fortnight. They were all like your second example. I’ve reported them to Action Fraud. The sender is the giveaway – all 3 had “telenet.be” at the end

Stephen Thumpston says:
10 April 2020

I have seen my fair share of scam TV Licence e-mails like these, many of which are immediately recognisable due to poor grammar, syntax or layout. They are, however, becoming more sophisticated and plausible.

What I am seeing much more regularly now – i.e. 3-4 times per week – are scam e-mails claiming to be from PayPal. They are all very similar in their approach and warn that suspicious activity has been noticed and urgent confirmation of customer details is required to rectify the ‘problem’. The senders’ addresses are always a giveaway so I’d recommend hovering the PC cursor over the address which will confirm that these e-mails are not from PayPal. And of course, report the scam to the genuine PayPal address at spoof@paypal.com.

Mrs. R. Kilburn says:
10 April 2020

I’ve received a couple of texts telling me that I am due for a tax rebate of around £400. The texts tell me to “click on the link” to begin the process of claiming my rebate. Hmmm. As I was not living in the country during that tax period I had paid no tax – so it couldn’t be possible that money I had never paid was being given back to me! I forwarded the texts to the fraud department at HMRC, who confirmed that they were scams. I’ve also received other suspicious texts, including one purporting to be from my mobile provider – it began with “we noticed that last time you paid your bill in a shop. Because of the pandemic you can now pay it by texting to this number XXXX.” Well, the only time I ever paid the bill in the shop was when I bought the phone. So either the mobile company is totally out of touch (possible) or it’s another scam. I’m now responding to NO texts. Seems safer

John M says:
10 April 2020

I received a TV licence scam which looked very convincing but there were tell tale signs in the American spelling (eg. Canceled instead of cancelled).

I fell for the TV Licence scam after changing my banking details, the need for update seemed genuine. About a week later, I got cold-called to verify security, the scammers using tech that actually displayed the bank security helpline number! I answered a few of the questions, then got the scam-trick of telling me I had answered wrongly. Follow-up q was for responses to number in different order which of course meant they then had all four numbers of my PIN – that luckily rang alarm bells, told them I was ending the call. Scammer response saying I was over-reacting was the next obvious sign. Have to be alert at all times, keep your wits about you!

Ray JENKINS says:
10 April 2020

I have received two tv licence scam emails. One obvious give- away was the American style date – month/day/year. I just deleted them.

I deleted one of these yesterday. It looked pretty realistic quoting “my” licence number [wrong]. However it just doesn’t read like an official government communication. It also helped that the paper licence, valid until 28/02/21, is in the kitchen. I pay by cheque and have never set up a direct debit with TV Licensing so there is no reason they would have my email address.

Robin Sherman says:
10 April 2020

I received one of these messages too. I was suspicious because in one sentence, it confused the verb with a noun and the second “c” in licence should have been an “s.” I deleted it but I find that virtually every scam message contains at least one spelling mistake or a grammatical error.

I received a very authentic looking email in February, when the licence was due for renewal. It said that there was difficulty in collecting payment, and of course, there was a button to press to verify my bank details. The email was very well produced but the give-away point was that I am eligible for a free licence, so I simply deleted the message.

Andrew tabor says:
10 April 2020

Get lots of these types of scams, but as they are instantly recognizable as not being from UK Gov sources they just go strait to delete bin which I empty daily. Thank you Which for keeping putting out these warnings to reduce the number of people who may inadvertently click on a wrong button.

Here’s one I got:
Hi – my email address,

Thank you for choosing to pay for your TV Licence by Direct Debit.

We are sorry to let you know that the TV License could not be automatically renewed.

As we could not take the latest payment from your bank account, this amount will also need to be paid when you set up your new Direct Debit.

Remember, if you don’t keep up with your payments, we may be forced to cancel your license or pass your details to a debt collection agency.

Update License Now >>

Please keep this email safe, as it tells you how to update your licence details. If you ever need to change anything, just sign in to your licence.

TV Licensing

I am over 75 so have been getting a free licence. What it alleged was false. Note spelling of ‘License’ too. Their email address had a typo too!.

Gerry Carpenter says:
10 April 2020

I have had an identical experience to John (post at 8.45 on 10/4/2020) and responded in the same way

Mark Sharpe says:
11 April 2020

Had one today informing me my licence was suspended and I owe £12.00. The email started with Dear …email address. As my new licence has just renewed for 2021 and paying £11.39 per month I was not being led down the scammers path. I reported the email.

AlanC says:
24 April 2020

I’ve just had one exactly the same as this. What stood for me was the failure to collect payment date was the same as the email date, and is not the date that the DD goes out.

Unfortunately, these phishing scams are all too regular (probably at least weekly). I always try to make sure they’re reported to Fraud Action at nfibphishing@city-of-london.pnn.police.uk

David Andrew says:
14 April 2020

I have had 3 or 4 of these emails recently. However I am 80 and don’t currently pay for my licence. My current licence doesn’t run out until 31 May 2020 so they were obviously a scam..

Maybe we should not be pointing out all the ‘misstakes ‘ they make in their scam emails or they will do them more carefully and fool more people !

I also receive a free T.V. license at the moment, this made spotting scam demands for money very easy, however, once the B.B.C. revokes the free license it will make the job of the scammers infinitely easier. the scammers must believe Christmas is just around the corner. If any elderly person who is receiving a free license at the moment is scammed, will the B.B.C. reimburse the victims ? After all it will be the revocation of the free T.V. license that will have led to the opportunity to the victims to be scammed.

I know it seems mean of me, but I get texts saying will I donate to this & that. But I will never give my details on my iPad.

Michael Meakin says:
25 April 2020

I have received two of these scams both in American format date spelling a giveaway