The BBC’s controversial decision to make those aged over-75 pay for their TV License has seemingly ignited a new cyber threat. New research suggests that criminals are trying to cash-in on the latest change, which came into force on August 1, by tricking consumers into handing over personal data, including name, billing address and payment details.
One of the most common scams uses a text message, which claims to offer a free year of television. The message reads: “Due to COVID-19, we are able to provide one year free of charge TV License service upon application.”
If you open the link included with the scam text message, users are sent to an official-looking website and enter their details. Unfortunately, this isn’t a dramatic reversal of policy from the BBC, but a dangerous scam designed to steal sensitive information.
With thousands still angry with the decision to end the free TV License, the offer of a free year of television is likely to be hugely tempting. According to the Parliament Street researchers, hundreds of UK consumers have already been targeted by the scam.
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Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET: “Hackers are incredibly quick to jump on topical stories which add convincing backstories inside the messages they send. Phishing emails can look very compelling and the wording can often make vulnerable victims act quickly. Rather than offering money in this circumstance, proposing something for free often makes the victim feel like they have nothing to lose should they click on the link and go through the step by step guide.
“These well-crafted bogus sites can easily look genuine so it is worth doing your homework before you divulge any personal information. The URL itself will be slightly different to the real address, and it is worth remembering to do your research online first before entering information that may be used to defraud you later, especially if you have received any form of unsolicited communication.”
If you receive any messages which claim to offer a free TV License, immediately ignore or delete the text as it’s almost certain to be fake and could leave your private details in the hands of hackers. It’s worth noting that free over-75 TV Licences are available, however, these are reserved for households who receive Pension Credit.
If think you’re eligible for a free licence but have not held a free licence before, call 0300 790 6117 and speak to one of the TV License advisors to request an application form. If you already receive Pension Credit, you can apply for your free over 75 TV Licence when you are 74 years old.
And if you have accidentally clicked on the one of the links as described in the text message above, you should contact your bank and explain the situation so they can check for any suspicious activity on your account. You should also change any other online accounts that use the same email address-password combination, so that hackers aren’t able to use any of the details you’ve inadvertently passed along to access your other accounts.