Action Fraud are warning people to be on the lookout after scammers target utility customers with fake emails.
Action Fraud has received over 100 reports about fake emails purporting to be from utility companies, including British Gas and Anglian Water. The content of the emails vary from threats of account suspension to refunds due to overpayment. The links in the emails lead to malicious websites that are designed to steal personal and financial information.
What is Phishing?
Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.
A scammer contacts you pretending to be from a legitimate business such a bank, telephone or internet service provider. You may be contacted by email, social media, phone call, or text message.
The scammer asks you to provide or confirm your personal details. For example, the scammer may say that the bank or organisation is verifying customer records due to a technical error that wiped out customer data. Or, they may ask you to fill out a customer survey and offer a prize for participating.
Alternatively, the scammer may alert you to ‘unauthorised or suspicious activity on your account’. You might be told that a large purchase has been made in a foreign country and asked if you authorised the payment. If you reply that you didn’t, the scammer will ask you to confirm your credit card or bank details so the ‘bank’ can investigate. In some cases the scammer may already have your credit card number and ask you to confirm your identity by quoting the 3 or 4 digit security code printed on the card.
Phishing messages are designed to look genuine, and often copy the format used by the organisation the scammer is pretending to represent, including their branding and logo. They will take you to a fake website that looks like the real deal, but has a slightly different address. For example, if the legitimate site is ‘www.realbank.com.au’, the scammer may use an address like ‘www.reallbank.com’.
If you provide the scammer with your details online or over the phone, they will use them to carry out fraudulent activities, such as using your credit cards and stealing your money.
How you can protect yourself, advice from Action Fraud:
- Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.
- Don’t assume a phone call or email is authentic, even if someone knows your basis details (such as your name or address). Remember, criminals can spoof phone numbers and email addresses to appear as companies you know and trust, such as TV Licensing.
- Your bank will never call and ask you for your PIN, full banking password, or ask you to transfer money out of your account.
What to do if you’ve fallen victim:
- Let your bank know as soon as possible and monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
- If you suspect your identity may have been stolen you can check your credit file quickly and easily online. Use a reputable service provider and follow up on any unexpected or suspicious results.
- If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040