Email and phone scams, often targeting the elderly or vulnerable, have become an unavoidable part of life over the last few years.
Email scams can also take the form of a request for information, including personal information and bank details, or they may ask the user to open an attached file, often claimed to be a CV, insurance policy, tax return, or other important document.
When opened, the file infects the user’s computer with a virus. This may do a number of things, from slowing the computer down, to deleting files, to collecting information and sending it back to the virus’s maker. Links in the email can also lead to a virus.
In phone scams, callers may claim to be representing a bank, insurer, or other official, and request personal information such as bank details, which can then be used to drain money from an account.
Scam emails may appear to come from a well-known organisation such as an online retailer, a bank, or a government department, to inspire confidence. Now the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is reporting that some customers have received scam emails that supposedly originate with the DVLA.
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In the DVLA scam, customers receive an email supposedly confirming that a Direct Debit payment has been made, with an attachment containing a virus.
If you are unsure about an email, there are several warning signs to look for.
Firstly, is the email relevant? For instance, if you don’t play the lottery, it’s unlikely that there are winnings waiting for you. Unless you are in the motor trade, you probably haven’t made a Direct Debit payment to the DVLA without being aware of it.
The contents of the email can give clues, too. A genuine email will usually use your name, while a fake is more likely to start with a generic greeting like ‘Dear customer’. If the text of an email is badly spelled or ungrammatical, it is less likely to come from an official source.
Do not click any links, or open any attachments, until you are sure the email is genuine.
Visit the company’s website by finding it through a search engine, not from a link in the email. If they are aware of the scam, they may have posted a warning notice on their website, as the DVLA has.
If you have received a scam email, report it to the company whose name is being used, so they can warn other customers and take action against the scammers. You can also report it to the police.