Earlier this month I was a little alarmed to receive an email from the Brighton and Hove Bus & Coach Company with the following wording:
Thank you for registering for a Brighton & Hove key card.
This email is simply confirmation that you have chosen not to receive any further marketing emails from us in the future. However to make sure you don’t miss out on exclusive customer offers, you can choose to opt back in at any time by changing the preferences in your account. To update this setting, or your user name and password, just click here to visit our website to log-in and change your preferences on the My Account page.
It’s good to have you with us.
The Marketing Team at Brighton & Hove
Why Did This Cause Concern?
Although I had previously been a customer of Brighton & Hove Buses, I had not actually applied for their Key Card. At best the email was puzzling but a sinister possibility was that someone else had applied in my name. Was this an indication of identity theft?
So, I emailed Brighton & Hove Buses to express my concern that this could indicate fraudulent activity and asked them to advise.
How Did They Respond?
First I got an automated response indicating they would aim to reply within 5 days. When I chased them a few days later, this was met with a similar automated message. After 11 days with no reply from a human being, I sent a further email to chase them, this time making it clear in the subject line that I would refer the matter to the police as fraud if I did not hear from them by close of business the next day.
The next day I did finally get an email from a B&H Buses employee. Leaving aside that he could not get my surname right (it’s only 5 letters long but I guess 4 out of 5 isn’t bad) his reply confirmed that the email was sent in error by their software controllers … whatever that means.
How Could They Improve Their Service In Future?
Not sending out such emails in the first place would be a good start. But I accept that people sometimes make mistakes. What is a shame is that it took them 12 days to respond to an email about possible fraud.
I am not privy to whether Brighton & Hove Buses only discovered that these emails had been sent out as a result of my complaint or whether it was already a known issue. If they did know about it earlier, then it is disappointing that they did not proactively send out an update reassuring customers that it was sent in error, particularly given the potential identify theft aspect and the similarity to phishing emails.
What Should You Do If You Receive This Type of Email?
Unfortunately, these days you cannot assume that an email that appears to come from a company you buy from was actually sent by them. There are lots of very convincing scam and phishing [attempts to get personal data] emails.
Whenever you receive an email, here are some ways to avoid becoming a victim of crime:
- Do not click links in the email. If you need to go to the company website, look them up via a search engine and make sure you go to the genuine website (beware sites with similar names).
- If an email is asking for personal data, or for you to log in to a service, ignore it. Instead refer it to Action Fraud.
- If it indicates that you have subscribed to a service that you did not apply for, contact the company and query it:
- At best, it may be an error.
- Or it could be that a company subscribed you to a service that you did not ask for – they are not supposed to but some of them do! If you did not subscribe, insist that they cancel the service and any continuous payment authority, and refund any money they have already taken.
- In the worst case scenario, it could indicate identity theft. If a criminal has got hold of your details and applied for one service, then they may well go on to apply for others such as credit cards or bank accounts. If you suspect identity theft, contact the police.