Fraudsters stealing bank details in fake Home Office email scam

Fraudsters are stealing bank account details in fake Home Office email scam which orders motorists to pay ‘penalty charge’ of up to £30

  • Scammers sending the authentic-looking emails featuring the Home Office logo
  • Emails warn that the recipient has been give a fine for driving in a ‘charging area’
  • The messages demand payment, with the bank details going to the fraudsters
  • Police forces and Home Office chiefs have warned people about falling victim 

Fraudsters are using authentic looking emails featuring the Home Office logo in order to trick Britons into handing over their bank details.

The online scammers are sending threatening emails to people claiming they have been given a ‘penalty charge’ for driving a vehicle in a ‘charging area’.

The con-artists then demand between £20-£30 – before ramping up their threats, by claiming the charge will increase to £100 if the money is not paid within 28 days.

Victims are then told to click through to the payment section and submit their bank details – which are then sent directly to the scammers.

Police and Home Office chiefs have warned people not to fall for the phishing scam.  

Sickening scammers are using authentic looking emails featuring the Home Office logo in order to trick Britons into handing over their bank details


The online fraudsters are sending threatening emails to people claiming they have been given a ‘penalty charge’ for driving a vehicle in a ‘charging area’. The con-artists then demand between £20-£30 – before ramping up their threats, by claiming the charge will increase to £100 if the money is not paid within 28 days

One force to Tweet about it was Devon and Cornwall Police.

In a message, which included a picture of the email, the force said: ‘Phishing messages may look like the real thing but are malicious.’ 

Devon and Cornwall Police advised those who have received an email they are not sure about to forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service.

Other forces have reported people having received the email in their areas, including in Ayshire in Scotland, while residents in Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe have also reportedly received the scam message.

Lanarkshire Police in Scotland have also warned about the email. In a statement, they said: ‘A number of the public have complained about receiving an email from the “Home Office” to say that they have an outstanding penalty charge for parking a vehicle on a road where a charging scheme applies.

‘There are details of a fine and a link to click to pay. We advise – do not click on payment links.’

The email, which is headed by the Home Office logo and is sent with the subject ‘HM Courts & Tribunals, starts with a ‘total cost’ followed by a figure.

It then says: ‘For the following: the use of a vehicle on a road in the charging area which a charging scheme applies without payment of the appropriate charge, at the date and time stated below.’

The email then features a data and time stamp.

It continues: ‘If you do not respond before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date of service of this notice a charge certificate may be issued which may increase the charge to (an amount).

‘Failure to then pay the increased penalty charge may result in the outstanding balance being registered as a debt at the County Court.’

The email includes a payment reference code and a ‘Penalty Charge Notice Number’, as well as a link to pay and a telephone number – which it claims is ‘temporarily unavailable’.

The number is listed as ‘dangerous’ according to WhoCalledMe, who list the number as having links to an HMRC scam. 

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Cyber criminals use every opportunity they can to fleece innocent people of their hard-earned cash and sensitive personal information – across government and law enforcement we are working to prevent criminals from exploiting others.

‘This is why the National Cyber Security Centre launched a tool in April to help people report suspicious emails, which has thwarted thousands of scams set up to cause harm online.

‘Guidance has also been published to help individuals spot phishing scams.’

The fraud was slammed on social media.

One user wrote: ‘Received this scam email yesterday.

What are authorised push payment scams? 

Authorised push payment scams, or APPs, see victims tricked into transferring money to scammers.

Those carrying out the fraud are often criminals posing as their bank, the police, a builder or even the taxman.

Also known as a bank transfer scam, one example could be a scammer pretending to be from a bank’s fraud team who warns they customer they must move their money to a safe account – which is actually one that the fraudster controls. 

‘Worried for a minute until brain went into gear and realised that we don’t have chargeable areas here.’

Almost three million people reported scam emails to the National Cyber Security Centre just this month so far. 

It is not known how many people fell for the latest scam. Since Sept 30, 13,291 scams have been removed as well as 30,344 individual URLs.

Last month it was revealed that just over a third of the total amount lost to scams where people were tricked into transferring money to a fraudster was returned to customers in the first half of 2020, according to figures from a trade association.

A total of £207.8million was lost to authorised push payment (APP) scams between January and June 2020, UK Finance said.

Banks and other finance providers were able to return £73.1 million, or around 35 per cent of the total, to customers – made up of £59.9 million returned to personal customers and £13.2 million going to non-personal or business accounts.

Some 66,247 APP cases were recorded over the period – a figure 15 per cent higher than the same period in 2019.

Within the total, 63,186 related to personal accounts while 3,061 were non-personal or business-related.

When a customer authorises such a payment themselves, they have no legal protection to cover them for losses.

But a voluntary code was introduced in May 2019 to make it easier for blameless victims of bank transfer scams to get a refund.  

A total of £207.8 million was lost to authorised push payment (APP) scams between January and June 2020, UK Finance said

People may still not get their money back in some cases, for example if their bank deems that they have ignored its scam warnings and gone ahead with a bank transfer anyway.

UK Finance also published separate data on compensation handed out to customers specifically under the voluntary code, making up part of the overall figures.

Not all banks have signed up to the code. TSB has its own separate fraud refund guarantee for customers, with the pledge that all innocent victims of fraud will receive their money back.

Some £47.9 million in compensation was received under the code in the first half of 2020 – amounting to 38 per cent of the £126.5 million in losses assessed under the code.

This compensation figure does not include, for example, cases where the customer was found to be at fault under the code, but the bank was able to trace and return the money in any case, UK Finance said.

Of the cases assessed under the voluntary code, 77 per cent involved values of less than £1,000, while 4 per cent were for more life-changing sums of £10,000-plus.

£2,200 down the drain in fake plumber’s email scam

Ken Maudsley lost £2,200 after being tricked by a fraudster posing as his plumber.

The retired chartered surveyor spoke to a real plumber on the phone in May and was quoted £4,400 for a new heating system and told to pay a £2,200 deposit.

An hour later, the 76-year-old was sent an email containing the account details for where the money should be sent.

It appeared in the same thread as previous emails from the plumber and came from the same address, but what Mr Maudsley did not realise was that the tradesman’s email account had been compromised and the message he received was from a fraudster.

On discovering the scam, Mr Maudsley immediately called Barclays to report it, but the bank initially refused to reimburse him because he had not carried out enough checks to ensure he was paying the correct person. Barclays agreed to refund Mr Maudsley after Money Mail intervened.

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