phone scam

Fake DVLA alerts – how to spot fraudulent messages about your car

11th Feb, 2019

Road tax and car insurance aren’t exactly optional, and getting them wrong can have pretty big, often expensive consequences. Unfortunately, there are those who play on those fears, and since tax and insurance are almost universal concerns which involve major financial exchanges, that makes them a lucrative market for fraudsters. Scam messages claiming to be from the DVLA have been noticeably on the rise recently, so much so that they’ve forced the actual DVLA to state that such messages are nothing to do with them.

We’ve got some passing familiarity with certain unscrupulous practices ourselves here at Scrap Car Network – we’ve already gone into detail before about various shady schemes some use scrapping your car. So if you’ve recently received a text or message from the DVLA (or even your insurers) which you’re not quite sure about, it’s worth having a quick read-through of the following advice, just in case!

What are the latest scam communications saying?

While some talk about car insurance, road tax seems to be the topic of choice for most of these new fraudulent texts and emails. Some messages claim to be notifying recipients that they’re eligible to refunds of hundreds of pounds on road tax, whereas others warn of a failed payment, and demand immediate action amidst threats of a £1000 fine. Both types of emails have the same goal: to get more detailed personal information and bank details from you.

closer look

One of the most worrying things about this latest round of communications is that they’re reasonably detailed for scam messages. They often feature carefully duplicated versions of the official DLVA logo, for example, and in some cases even copy the same phone numbers (although obviously, the hope is that recipients won’t actually call them). This makes a concerning change from the popular idea of scam texts and emails, most of which are far more hurriedly put together, and therefore more easy to spot. Thankfully, there are a whole range of ways to spot a scam email or text, no matter whether they claim to be from the DVLA or some other organisation.

How to spot a scam email, text or other communication

Whenever you get any message – real or fake – that demands or notifies you of significant action, it’s always best to give it at least the once-over for a number of factors. On their own, none of these checks are guaranteed to definitively prove the difference between a genuine or fraudulent message, but if you make several of these checks alongside each other, it should give you at least a pretty good idea!

Who is the sender?

Whenever you receive any sort of official email, the very first thing you should always do is check the email address it’s coming from. If it’s coming from an official address – for example, one that ends in gov.uk – it’s generally a good indication that it’s a genuine email. Make sure you know where you’re looking, though! Some scammers will attempt to distract you by setting an official email address as their contact name, or by putting it in the subject header of the email. It’s a simple trick, but it’s commonly used, and unfortunately it often works for them.

mystery sender

How are they contacting you?

The DVLA have openly stated that they don’t send emails or text messages about vehicle tax refunds, and that they would never message you using these methods to confirm personal details or payment information. Along with local councils and car insurance companies, they prefer to send official letters first, so if you’re expecting them to get in touch you should be checking your letterbox rather than your text messages.

Don’t forget, email addresses are amongst the most easily obtainable bits of personal information about you, and they also provide the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to contact hundreds or thousands of people at a time. By and large, the same goes for text messages, so don’t trust messages you receive in these methods only.

How urgent is the message?

Are they asking for immediate payment to avoid a fine, or giving you a deadline of today or tomorrow to claim a refund? Both are major indications of a fraudulent message. Scammers rely on creating a sense of fear and panic to trick you, as making you rush yourself makes it less likely you’ll stop and do the proper checks. Don’t fall for it! The DVLA and other legitimate organisations will give you a reasonable amount of time to respond (even if they are very firm about it). The bare minimum is a few days, so be very suspicious of anything that demands same-day action.

By the same token, be especially wary of dramatic or apparently overzealous threats, like the mention of bailiffs visiting your property, or threats to seize your car. This is expensive and time-consuming, and so is often a last-resort for legal organisations. It’s definitely not something they spring on you suddenly! Some scammers try and get around this by saying “we’ve been trying to contact you” but again, don’t take their word for it. If you’ve not actually had an official letter through the door, that claim is very unlikely to be true.

towing car

Spelling and grammar

This is the most time-honoured way to tell so you probably know it already, but it’s worth covering nonetheless. Many scammers are based abroad, as it’s easier to avoid legal consequences that way. As a result, many scam communications demonstrate poor use of the English, or misplaced grammar such as commas where there should be full stops, or apparently random spacing throughout the text. Again, it’s important to remember though that even the most perfectly worded and flawlessly-spelled email doesn’t mean it’s genuine; it’s just a good check to make amongst others.

Do they know your name?

If the message doesn’t address you by name, that’s another good sign it might not be genuine. Email messages might try and fool you by addressing you by your email address (for example: “hello, johnsmith@example.com, we have been trying to get in touch…” Official communications will generally refer to you either by your first or your full name, not by your number or email address.

What can you do if you’re still not sure?

There are two crucial points to bear in mind if you’re still not sure whether it might be an official communication. The first is: don’t follow any links. You probably know this already, but if the message takes you by surprise or even briefly succeeds in panicking you slightly, it can be all too easy to do it before you realise what you’re doing. Even if the website on the other side looks legit, remember that certain scammers are capable of replicating websites almost perfectly.

The second point to bear in mind is closely related to the first: chase it up yourself. Don’t let them provide the means for you to get in touch with them. If you believe the DVLA really has got in touch, it’s best to navigate to the DVLA website yourself, and take a contact number or email address directly from there. Otherwise, it gives the fraudsters an opportunity to pose as the authorities, and glean further personal information from you.

Above all, we’d say that the most important thing is to trust your instincts. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on it – or if the message otherwise seems legitimate – if you get even the vaguest sense that something might be off, contact the supposed sender using details you’ve found yourself. You might be wrong of course, and it might turn out to be a genuine message with just some odd phrasing – but if that’s the case, the most you’ve lost is time, and not even very much of that. Far better to cost yourself a few minutes than several hundreds of pounds!

Here at Scrap Car Network, of course, we’re all about saving you both time and money, especially when it comes to finding out where to scrap your car. You can find out what yours is worth with a free, no obligation instant online quote. So if you’re thinking ‘I need to scrap my car’, look no further – just head on over to our homepage and enter in your postcode and car reg to find out how much your car is worth!