Only a couple of months after their dodgy “Northgate” letter, Lewes District Council (LDC) has once again exposed people to the risk of scams.
Electoral Roll Letter
They have sent out an electoral roll letter that bears several hallmarks of a phishing scam, e.g.
- It asks for personal data.
- It is not personally addressed but is marked as to “The Occupier”.
- The website to confirm who lives at the property does not appear to belong to Lewes District Council: www.hef-response.co.uk
- The number to call cannot be verified as belonging to Lewes District Council: 0800 025 3124.
- The number to text cannot be verified as belonging to Lewes District Council: 07507 319820.
- It contains threatening wording – typically used by scammers to panic their victims into complying – such as “if you don’t you could be fined £1,000”.
Advice on Avoiding Scams
The police, consumer groups, Citizens’ Advice and Trading Standards warn the public to:
- Be suspicious of any unsolicited letter, email or phone call.
- Only visit official websites of recognised organisations – and certainly not to visit sites provided via such unsolicited communications.
- Never to provide any personal data except via official sites.
It is therefore very disappointing to see LDC encouraging residents to do exactly the opposite of that!
An official letter from a recognised authority such as LDC directing people to enter data into an unknown third-party website sends out a dreadful signal and establishes a precedent that this is a normal thing to do.
As a result, recipients of this letter may well be fooled by the next scam letter that comes through their door posing as an official communication … and the website in such a scam letter may aim to extract personal data (phishing) with the aim of fraud or identity theft, or it could contain malicious code such as ransomware.
The threat contained in the letter of a £1,000 penalty makes this worse. This is exactly the sort of tactic used in scam communications to pressure the recipient to act quickly, without taking time to verify the authenticity of the request or consider what they are doing.
Template for Fraud
If a potential scammer lives at any of the 45,000 properties that received this letter, then LDC has just given them the perfect template for committing a scam. All they have to do is reproduce a scanned copy of the document with some adjustments to the website address, phone numbers and wording (and edit out the bit about replying by post) in order to have a credible scam letter that recipients may well be fooled by, as they’ve just seem something similar from a legitimate source.
Sussex Police are aware of the concerns this letter has caused.