The other day, we at Inner Circle HQ received the following email at our [email protected] address:

Remember, this [email protected] email address is the one to use if you need our techie help!

Now, we haven’t taken out a TV Licence with this email address, so we knew straight away that it was a scam but if this came to your personal email address, you might not realise straight away that it’s a wrong’un! So I thought I’d write a quick post with some tips on what to look for:

  1. Don’t click on any links in a suspicious email instead, open a new tab in your web browser and go to the company’s website. In this case, you’d type into the address bar and hit Enter. There are then several buttons that you can use to check your account details:
You can use any of these links to check your account status.

Whichever link you use, you’ll be taken to a page that looks something like this:

The red box is the important bit!

As it says, emails (and phone calls) asking for your personal details are almost always scams. Even if you think it looks like a legitimate email, you’re always better off going to the website separately rather than clicking on a link in an email. Most scammers will count on you clicking on a convenient (but fake) link in the email rather than going the long way round, but it’s definitely worth making the effort to avoid being duped.

2. If you can, check the email address of the person who sent you the email. In some email programs you can hover the mouse over the name of the sender to see their actual email address – for example it says it’s from “TV Licensing”, but when I hover the mouse over the name…

Very sneaky behavior…

…you’ll see it’s actually from an address called “[email protected]
I did a quick Google search for “vikathe” and found nothing useful, so I think it’s safe to say that this person is nothing to do with the TV Licensing Authority!

3. Now this isn’t always the case, but in this particular email, there was a complete lack of any official logos, headers or anything to make the email look official. This makes it look doubly suspect – although just because an email looks official, doesn’t mean it is! There are some smart, sophisticated scammers out there.

4. If they don’t use your name, but go with “Customer” or “Friend” or something equally vague, approach the email with caution. This can be a sign that it’s a scammer pretending to be the company, but showing that they don’t actually know who they’re emailing. (However, this isn’t always the case e.g. Yahoo! recently sent out an email to its users addressing them as “Dear Yahoo! Member”, which was actually a genuine email!)

5. Threatening language or attempts to pressure you into fixing the problem immediately are often a good sign that it’s a scam. Suggesting that we need to do something urgently unless we want to suffer some dire consequences can make us panic, which makes us more likely to click on the dodgy link or give away all our personal details. This is why it’s important to do as anti-fraud organizations advise and Take 5:

You can have a read about good ways to prevent fraud at the link above (and you can trust me that this one is genuine!)