TV licence fee scams have been around forever, but it seems scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with more and more people getting these fake payment e-mails recently, according to the official TV Licensing body.
In just two weeks in April, Action Fraud received over 3,400 reports of TV license scam e-mails, and those are just the ones that were reported.
These recent TV Licensing scam e-mails tend to look quite realistic, and they usually contain links to genuine-looking websites that try to steal financial details and payment card numbers.
But don’t panic just yet – there are ways to spot these scams and protect yourself from falling victim, thanks to guidance from TV Licensing on some of the warning signs you should check when you receive an e-mail, or anything in the post, that might be a scam (see below).
The TV Licence fee, which is used to fund the BBC, currently stands at £159/year. Anyone who watches the BBC live, or streams it via BBC iPlayer, has to pay the fee.
Furthermore, if you watch or stream any live TV from any broadcaster (even an international one) – you also need to pay the fee (See our full guide on whether you need to pay the TV Licence fee or not).
People who don’t pay the TV licence fee risk prosecution, a fine of up to £1,000, or in rare cases can even go to jail (if you don’t pay the fine).
It’s also important to remember that in 2020, there were TV Licence fee changes for the over-75s, as the government phased out subsidies the BBC was getting – and most need to pay it now, unless they are getting Pension Credit.
TV Licence E-mail Scams On The Rise
A couple of weeks ago, TV Licensing – the only official body responsible for collecting the fee – took to social media to issue a warning regarding the rising numbers of e-mail and telephone scams.
Scams are on the increase. Remember, we will never call to ask for:
☛ Your mother’s maiden name
☛ Your date of birth
☛ Your card details
— TV Licensing (@tvlicensing) April 21, 2023
As always, these fake e-mails (and phone calls) pretend to be from TV Licensing, telling people their licence is due for renewal – usually with an upcoming deadline, that is meant to pressure people further.
Unlike similar TV licence scams from years past, this year’s e-mails look and sound quite genuine, without any major spelling or grammar mistakes.
Furthermore – they contain a real-looking Licence Number, licence expiry date – and your real e-mail address.
Beware! I got this realistic looking email this morning to renew my TV licence. I knew it wasn’t due yet & the number is wrong. It’s a scam. pic.twitter.com/Q5Px047AWS
— Boyd Harris (@whittlewanderer) April 11, 2023
Other than the e-mail address, everything else is fake – but since people don’t usually remember their existing TV Licence number, or their exact licence expiry date – there’s a good chance they’ll fall for these fake details.
Once you click the link in the e-mail, however, you will most likely end up on a phishing site that pretends to be the official TV Licensing website, where you will be asked for your payment details.
When you enter those details into the fake site, the fraudsters will then be able to use your payment card – or your personal details for identity theft.
There are different versions of these e-mails going around these days, with lots of Brits reporting them on social media:
Received this email yesterday wanting me to fork out for another tv license. If you see it , report it to @tvlicensing don’t fall for it.
To whom do I forward on this scam email to please?#scams #ScamAlert pic.twitter.com/A6ZoH62pn2
— Leanne 🚢🏖️🧭🗺️✈️🍹🌴♿ (@lensawag1) May 2, 2023
Regarding this recent rise, A TV Licensing spokesperson told Cord Busters:
“We take the protection of our customers extremely seriously and work with groups across the UK to raise awareness of how people can avoid scams.
“If anyone is suspicious or doubtful about whether correspondence is genuine, we’d encourage them to call us or check our website where there is guidance on how to spot them.”
How To Avoid TV Licensing Email Scams
To avoid getting scammed, there are a few things you should check when you receive any correspondence relating to the TV Licence fee.
1. Identifying Genuine TV Licensing Emails
According to TV Licensing, genuine TV Licensing emails and letters are usually personalised to licence holders to include details such as your name, partial postcode or licence number.
Therefore, many scams simply say “Dear Customer” or use your email address, and may have a made-up postcode or licence number, so check carefully.
However, things can get a bit more complicated, since TV Licensing does send letters without names – to unlicensed households. In these cases, you should be extra vigilant, and check whether all the other details in the letter/e-mail are correct.
Real TV Licence e-mails should only arrive from either [email protected] or [email protected] – but even then, don’t take it as a sure sign, since there are ways to spoof e-mail addresses. (If you pay with a TV Licence payment card, you might also receive e-mails from [email protected]).
2. Spotting TV Licensing Scam E-mails
Scammers often disguise their true email address. Check the sender’s email address by selecting the sender’s name on your device, and if it looks suspicious (coming from a gmail/outlook/yahoo address, for example), then that’s a big red flag.
Scam emails often demand urgent payments (due to a “problem with your licence/payment”, for example), offer refunds or cheaper licenses, or display fake license numbers.
Genuine TV Licensing emails will have proper spelling and grammar. Be cautious of emails with mistakes, odd punctuation, or unusual web addresses.
Be suspicious of emails promising refunds followed by requests for payment card or bank details.
Always check the web address before clicking any links. The official TV Licensing websites are tvlicensing.co.uk and spp.tvlicensing.co.uk.
Fraudsters don’t know your real TV Licence number, so their e-mail will therefore show you a fake number (in most cases). Go back to your past correspondence with TV Licensing and compare your real number with the one in the e-mail.
3. Reporting TV Licence Scams And Suspicious Emails
If you encounter a scam or suspicious email, forward it to [email protected] for investigation by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
If you have already provided personal information on a suspicious site, report it to Action Fraud at 0300 123 2040. If you have shared card or bank account details, contact your bank immediately.
If you received a fraudulent TV Licensing text message, take a screenshot of the message and send it to [email protected].
How To Safely Pay The TV Licence
The best tip I can give you, is to simply never follow links from the e-mail itself.
Even if the e-mail is genuinely from TV Licensing, there’s no need to follow any links in it – instead, make a habit of always going directly to:
On the official website, you can sign up for an account and check your payment status.
If you do get an e-mail and you’re not sure about it, simply go directly to the real site (again, without clicking links in the e-mail!), and check your status there.
If you need to, you can also pay via the TV Licence Phone Number: 0300 790 0368 for Direct Debit customers, or 0300 555 0286 for Payment Card customers.