TELEVISION licence scammers are targeting the local area, leading to fears that vulnerable people could be defrauded out of cash.
Julie Waters (56), who lives in New Milton, received an email last weekend claiming her TV licence was due to run out the next day and demanding she pay the full price of a new one, or else face a fine.
“The email looked very professional and I can see why people fall for it,” she said. “It seemed completely authentic.
“You were instructed to click through a link to make full payment of £105.50 for a new TV licence. I did that and then realised that our licence wasn’t actually due until March, so alarm bells started ringing.”
Mrs Waters, who moved to the New Forest area with husband Martin (66) nearly a year ago when he retired, checked her licence details and realised the email was a scam.
“It also referred to our old address in Essex and was addressed to me even though my husband paid for our licence, so they were both giveaways. I contacted the TV licensing people who told me it was a scam and not to pay any money.
“I’m glad I didn’t fall for it but looking on the internet it seems that quite a lot of people have, and I am worried about elderly and vulnerable people in this area doing so.”
Cybercrime organisation Action Fraud said the fake TV licence email scam has prompted over 5,000 complaints in the last three months and it is believed that around £246,000 has been defrauded from innocent people by the scammers.
Action Fraud called the scam ‘particularly nasty’ as it involved the use of “very authentic, well researched” emails.
It found that although people had received several different emails with the wording slightly altered, the link asking for payment went through to the same website.
Apart from cheating people out of money, Action Fraud said it was likely the criminals running the scam were also attempting to harvest peoples’ bank details. The fake website asks victims to provide their payment details, including their account number, sort code, and card verification value (CVV) code.
The website may also ask for a victim’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, email and possibly even their mother’s maiden name.
A spokesperson for Action Fraud said: ‘Devious fraudsters are constantly using new tactics to trick victims into handing over their personal information, often with devastating consequences. This is particularly nasty as it looks so convincing.
‘It is vital that you spot the signs of fraudulent emails to avoid falling victim by following the advice below.
‘We work tirelessly to stop fraudsters in their tracks and to prevent unsuspecting members of the public from falling victim to fraud.”
A TV Licensing spokeswoman said: “TV Licensing will never email customers, unprompted, to ask for bank details or personal information or tell you that you may be entitled to a refund.”
If you think you have received an email from fraudsters, you should report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk