How to spot a scam email

The telltale signs to look for that show an email probably isn’t legit.

This week I spotted news of a TV Licence email scam that has been doing the rounds, conning at least £233,455 out of 200 people – and that’s just the ones reported to Action Fraud.

Emails were claiming a direct debit had failed, and asking people to click through and enter in new details. This is known as “Phishing”. Once the crook has your bank, contact and other personal details they could use them to pose as someone from your bank, or maybe the police, saying you’ve been a victim of fraud. And then they try to con you out of some huge amounts of cash. Scary stuff.

The original email was familiar as I’d too received it, and used it on Twitter to show my followers how to spot a scam. So it makes sense to share those same photos and pointers to help you avoid getting caught out by this or similar dodgy emails.

The email

The smarter the hacker, the better the email. In this instance, the email has the look and feel of a real TV Licencing email. Here’s the first tweet I sent.

Tip one: Dodgy grammar

Often the biggest giveaway is that there are spelling or grammatical mistakes.


Email scam spelling errors
Highlighting a couple of obvious mistakes in the email

Tip two: Discover who really sent the email

Just because an email says it’s from “TV Licencing” it doesn’t mean it is. Likewise any word in the “from” field could be masking a dodgy address. In fact anyone can change who an email appears from. I could send one that says it was from the Queen if I wanted. But you can’t hide the real email.

Here are those photos in full. First

TV licence email scam
Click on the “From” name to see the sender’s email address

Here’s the real address hidden behind it. It’s closer than most scam emails to the real thing, but it should set alarm bells ringing. This is a major UK institution so you’d expect a “” suffix. It’s best to Google the organisation to find the real web domain.

TV licence email scam
This is what’s revealed – and in this case it’s a similar web domain but NOT the real thing

What happens when you click through?

So, first, don’t click through if you have concerns about the legitimacy of the email. I did it here just to show you why you need to be extra careful at the email stage. First the fake TV Licencing site:

And then the real thing. Really similar!

Worried you’ve been scammed?

If you’ve fallen for this particular scam, or you’re worried you might have given your details after receiving similar emails, then you can report it to ActionFraud online or on the phone. They’ll also be able to give you some simple advice on what to do next. But if you’ve shared any passwords change them ASAP, and if you’ve given your bank details out call your bank immediately.

More articles on scams

Listen to the phone scammers trying to take over my computer

2 thoughts on “How to spot a scam email

  1. Thanks for these tips. My mum called me in a state when she got the email. I told her it was a scam and she did believe me and deleted it, but she’s since had it a few more times. People of a certain age or generation are more likely to fall for things like this so we need to get advice like this promoted more widely!

  2. Another reason not to use direct debit.It is only an annual payment so safest is just pay on credit card when it is due-preferably a 0% interest one or one giving some kind of cashback or reward points.Don’t know whether they take AMEX though-rather doubt it.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.