How a TV Licence 'refund' can scam you out of thousands

Fraudsters are using links from emails and texts to access your personal and financial details, so here’s how to stop them in their tracks.

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Fraudsters are using links from emails and texts to access your personal and financial details, so here's how to stop them in their tracks.

With someone becoming a victim every 15 seconds, and an astonishing £2million being stolen every day, the threat from financial fraud is on the rise.

And it's not just vulnerable or elderly people who are being targeted. Scammers are now using increasingly sophisticated methods to steal money from unsuspecting victims who are good with money and like to think they wouldn't fall for scams - people like you, in fact.

(Think you're too smart to be scammed? Try this quick quiz to test yourself)

The truth is it's all too easy to be fooled by scams that appear to be completely genuine.

At the moment, some of the most widespread scams involve persuading people to click on links in emails or texts. The link goes through to a fake - yet convincing-looking - website where the victim is invited to enter personal or financial details. These are all the scammer needs to start stealing money.

A tempting offer

One particular scam has focussed on TV Licensing. You receive an email with a subject line that reads something like: Your TV Licence Refund.

Intrigued, you open the email to discover that after an annual recalculation, it turns out you're owed a substantial refund.

Delighted to be getting an extra financial boost, it doesn't occur to you to question why you're being offered a refund on a fixed fee - your colour TV Licence costs £147 per year.

The email includes a link saying something like, ‘Claim your refund'. When you click on it, the link takes you directly to an official-looking TV Licensing website.

You enter your personal and financial details, expecting to receive a refund into your bank account within five days.

Unfortunately that email link led you to a fake site. Far from claiming money back, you've just handed over enough details to allow fraudsters to go on a shopping spree.

Beware of dodgy links

Frauds like this are devastating. That's why the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign is designed to help us all confidently challenge scammers. So before giving out any personal or financial details always stop, think, and take five to remind yourself of this phrase: My money? My info? I don't think so!

It's the simplest way to stop fraud.

Don't click on links in emails or text messages. Instead, type the address directly into your address bar, so you know you're visiting the genuine site. Always instal the latest software, browser and app updates - this will keep you safe from cyber criminals.

What to watch for

So how to you spot a fake email? They often have characteristics to watch for, like spelling or grammatical mistakes. And if you look carefully, you'll see that the website address is very similar, but not an exact match, to the official one. One way to be sure of the true address is to roll your mouse pointer over the sender's name (without clicking) to reveal its destination. You can do this with any hyperlinks too, to see the address the link will take you to.

Fake emails and texts will also use a general form of address, such as 'Dear customer', rather than using your own name. You'll also notice you're being hurried into taking action, and asked to act quickly.

You should also be suspicious if the email text is all within an image. And above all, if there's a request for personal and financial information which can then be used to steal from you.

So always stay watchful. Unless you are 100% sure a site is genuine, always stop, think and take five before committing yourself to any online transaction - and keep your money safe from scammers.

Take Five to Stop Fraud is the campaign from Financial Fraud Action UK and the UK Government, backed by the banking industry, to help prevent fraud.

Mariana Cerqueira
Lifestyle Editor

Mariana is a lifestyle writer who has written for and My Imperfect Life. She joined the team as an intern after completing her journalism MA at City University. After six months spent writing about food, celebrity news, and family trends, Mariana left to write for Healthy Food magazine - but returned in 2017, to join the Future team once again. In her spare time, you’ll find Mariana in the kitchen cooking for her friends.