/ Scams

Vehicle tax phishing emails remain a threat

Fraudsters continue to use fake vehicle tax emails as a means to obtain sensitive information. Here are some examples to keep an eye out for.

Vehicle tax phishing emails are a tried and tested method for scammers. The DVLA has issued fraud warnings in the past and we’ve ensured we share examples.

But as always with such a large number of motorists seen as potential victims, the problem persists. We’ve had a number of new examples reported here on Which? Conversation and to our scam watch email inbox.

Here are some fresh examples, complete with threats of debt collection agencies and cancelled direct debits.

Fake vehicle tax email examples

The above example was sent earlier this year directly to a Which? member of staff. It includes an attempt at personalisation with the recipient’s email address repeated in the first line.

This is a clever tactic for making the email appear genuine with minimal effort, however it clearly does not stand up to scrutiny when you realise that the fraudsters must already have knowledge of your email address to send the phishing attempt in the first place.

 

This more recent example again makes threats in order to panic a potential victim into taking quick action they’ll later regret. ‘Enforcement action’ and ‘not adhering to the terms of the Direct Debit guarantee’ are all attempts to cause worry and upset – emotions those behind emails like this are attempting to take advantage of.

Which? Conversation commenter Lidia has also had a similar experience.

Dealing with vehicle tax phishing emails

We showed the DVLA these examples. A spokesperson said:

“DVLA never asks for bank details over email and never sends text messages about vehicle tax refunds. As we regularly advise our customers, the only place to access official information on DVLA and its services is GOV.UK.

Customers should report any suspicious emails they receive to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) via their suspicious email service, and forward suspicious text messages to their network provider to investigate, on 7726 free of charge.

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of fraud should report this to the police via Action Fraud. DVLA regularly publishes advice on GOV.UK and across all our channels, including top tips to help motorists stay safe online.”

If you think you may have been the victim of a fake vehicle tax email, let your bank know what’s happened immediately.

Guide: how to spot a scam

Guide: how to get your money back after a scam

As the DVLA has said, fake emails and phishing sites can be reported to the National Cyber Security Centre on report@phishing.gov.uk

We’ll continue working to make people aware of these fake emails, so please do continue to share these scams with us and send warnings to friends and family.

Have you received a vehicle tax scam email or any others relating to motoring? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

The scammer’s bank should be the one who has to repay the victim. It is because those banks have signed up a customer without really checking all the appropriate details. It is because all these banks are falling over themselves to sign up as many people as possible, They are subsequently not checking properly. Make them be the ones who pay then perhaps they won’t be so eager to sign up these crooks.

John — I don’t know for sure, but I would hope there is a reciprocal agreement in place in the system whereby a bank that has to refund a scam victim on account of mismanagement by the receiving bank can recover the amount involved plus their costs.

E Haynes says:
5 August 2021

If I received any email with an address containing the word “ center “ I would immediately know it was an attempt to defraud me.

If you receive an email about vehicle tax it would be worth checking online. This government website shows whether a vehicle is currently taxed and has an MOT (if required): https://vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk

Note that the web address ends in gov.uk Using the GOV.UK website is the safest way to access many official services, so that if you did want to renew vehicle tax, just go to this website and select Driving and Transport.

I don’t think the DVLA communicates with drivers or vehicle-owners by e-mail so that in itself is an indication of a fraud attempt.

Amazingly in this digital age, churning out millions of printed reminders populated with the relevant details is easier and probably more reliable than sending e-mails and dealing with all the delivery failures. Since a physical address is an important part of the driver licensing and vehicle registration processes, mailing provides a good means of confirming correct addresses which e-mail cannot do. It also enables the recipient to complete any accompanying documentation easily without having to print it off as not everyone has a printing facility.

I agree with these points, and maybe these are the reasons why the DVLA does not use email. Of course it’s convenient for most or many recipients to apply for vehicle tax online rather than find a suitable Post Office.

Yes — Having received a postal reminder, the applicant can choose whether to make a manual or digital return.

Dave Trevena says:
14 September 2021

They do email me with a receipt of payment, so I am in their database, as probably are a load of people.

John Hughes says:
6 August 2021

There is a need to get information to the general public about fraud through scams. We have a National Broadcaster, the BBC; it would be very useful if they dedicated small slots between popular programs to warn people of the risks of scams, the warning signs and the do’s and don’ts when responding to e mails etc. There is a need to get the message to a wide audience. The BBC has been used to convey information and guidance about COVid, so extend it to scams as this is now a major problem.

Now that is the best idea idea I’ve heard in a very long time. I remember the old, short public service broadcasts about what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. I’m sure this would have a good chance of getting the message across. How about Which? chasing this one up?

Because of time-shifting, streaming and catch-up it would seem that few people watch live TV these days except certain sports events and special occasions, and those broadcast slots on the commercial channels are in such demand that they would be unaffordable for public service announcements. The BBC prefers to show trailers during the inter-programme intervals. The audience for BBC News bulletins has declined to low levels nowadays because more people follow the news on their PC’s or other devices and there is a much wider choice of alternative news programmes now than there used to be. Once viewers have seen an advert or announcement three times it becomes irritating.

Michael Ney says:
6 August 2021

The other ‘scam’ is for agents that look like the DVLA website and use search optimisation engines to come top of the list who will apply for and obtain VED on your behalf and then charge a hefty fee for doing it. It is not illegal; you engaged them as your agent to do the work on your behalf and they are entitled to a fee for acting for you. You can do it for yourself every bit as easily on the official government website for NOTHING. Don’t be suckered into using a non-government provider.

Trouble is people are unaware that the site is not the official DVLA.
To me the way it is set up is to deceive the applicant into believing its genuine.
This is a legal scam which could be stopped by government. It also happens to passport applicants. People have no idea they are being deceived until too late. Its too easy for them to work this con.

Mr Downes — There have been many reports here of people being deceived by websites undertaking DVLA application services and it has been fairly well covered in the press.

Where a name has been given I have usually checked to see how the website appears.

I have not yet found any cases where there was not a disclaimer dissociating the company from the DVLA, pointing out what service they provide, and making it clear that a free process may be available direct from the DVLA or at a lower price for an application-check at the Post Office. This notice might not stand out on the screen as well as it should, but it is there.

In my browser, putting in “DVLA” brings up one website: the GOV.UK one. Different browsers present the search engine results differently and for some the fact that it is an advertisement is not immediately clear, or the word “Ad” is in small and feint type. People must look for “GOV.UK” in the website address and putting just that in the browser is the best way to search. A list of headings comes up, and, under “Roads and Transport” there are a number of functions and services of which the first is “Driving Licences”.

GOV.UK gives access to a wide range of government services.

As you say, John, advertisements may not be clear, which is a good reason to change browser. Here is a screen capture I posted before, which makes it very clear that a link will take you to an advertised site:

I would like to see an assessment of whether the copycat sites provide any worthwhile benefit over the official sites on GOV.UK and it not they should be banned.

I have a friend who is 88 and recently applied to renew his licence. The response was that a third party had reported him to Swansea about his driving. No recourse is allowed to find out who the reporting person is. This seems very unfair.
His licence ha s just expired leaving him unable to drive.
Is this genuine please or a scam ?
Thank you.

Kenneth — I think your friend should contact the DVLA to see if that was an official response or not. They are unlikely to tell a third party. I don’t think we are in a position to answer your question unless someone is familiar with how the DVLA’s manages such situations.

I would imagine the DVLA would take such reports seriously and inform the licence-holder about their rights to a review.

In my view, the name of the person reporting the matter is confidential to the DVLA and should not be disclosed.

It should not be that easy for a stranger to have this effect on a person without proof. I would have thought the DVLA would want to make sure of their facts and contact the person involved.

Any third party can report a driver to the DVLA on various grounds, including dangerous driving or medical fitness to drive. There is a form for this.

https://contact.dvla.gov.uk/driver/capture_third_party_personal_information

It seems the DVLA did contact the person involved but their friend, Mr Walter who commented above, was suspicious and wonders whether or not it was a genuine response. I cannot imagine how it would not be; who would gain anything from falsifying such a communication from the DVLA?

Thanks John- I believe contacting DVLA is a problem as they had 800,000 cases outstanding due to a strike etc. We know that people are receiving scam letters etc from big names and it seems that Swansea is no exception. If this notification is not a scam then it seems that anyone could mischievously report a person on the flimsiest of evidence with no recourse by the Licence holder.

Thanks JD- as mentioned in my reply to John Ward the DVLA is under pressure and a third party could mischievously report an innocent Licence holder without Swansea revealing any information. The last I heard was that my friend who’s licence expired 31st July is still awaiting to hear from them although he has provided them with his current medical history.

I’ve had a few of these before. Now I just mark as junk/spam and delete as I pay by direct debit my car tax.

(There is another wide scale scam going on here: that of pretending to the general public that Action Fraud are actually going to do anything. I will never report anything to them again, after my bitter experiences. They are set up purely to present an impression of the Government doing something – and supported by all the other Government agencies and organisations such as Which? and Citizens Advice in this – when, in fact, they do NOTHING unless the scam involves more than £100K. So they are there to protect rich people only and anyone else contacting Action Fraud are simply wasting their time and energy)

I have had a l o n g argument with the DVLA about their use of email. They told me that that they NEVER use email because it is insecure, even though their web site claims they use email. However, what DVLA call ’email’ on their web site is, in fact, just a writeable web form!

Clearly, DVLA do not understand there is a difference between email protocols (such as SMTP, IMAP and POP) and the web site protocols (HTTP and HTTPS).

The irony is that when the DVLA informed me of their REFUSAL to use email, they used email! I forwarded the correspondence to my MP. Who laughed.

Linda Smith says:
16 August 2021

I had a text message, allegedly from dvla, telling me that according to their calculations, I am owed £108.32! Considering I don’t have a car or a driving licence, they are plainly scammers. I deleted it immediately, but others should be warned.

Ian Patient says:
17 August 2021

I have also rejected some absurd scams, but perhaps we should make a point of reporting the scams properly to help other people.

A lot is down to the Government saving money by not issuing the old circular windscreen tax discs. Without those it is not so easy to know whether a vehicle is taxed. I had a similar email telling me my car was untaxed, 2 months after I renewed it on line. However when you renew that way, they always send you email confirmation. I always print that off and file it. Also you can check a vehicles tax status on line. So yes, its easy to be scammed but even easier to check the authenticity of such before paying some cretin trying to make a few easy bucks.