Decision to scrap free TV licence for over-75s could be a ‘bonanza’ for fraudsters

Decision to scrap free TV licence for over-75s could be a ‘bonanza’ for fraudsters

Age UK says TV licence fraud could go up by 13% once the licence fee is scrapped next year

Stephen Little
Sat, 09/28/2019 – 00:19

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The decision to scrap TV licences for the over-75s could lead to more pensioners being targeted by fraudsters, Age UK has warned.

The charity estimates that successful scams could rocket by 13% when the new rules come into force next June, with fraudsters making off with over £320,000.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, says: “Fraudsters are always searching for new opportunities to part us from our cash and it seems that the BBC’s decision to make millions of older people buy a TV licence from next summer could be a bonanza for them. 

“As though the prospect of losing their free TV licence wasn’t bad enough for our over-75s, this expected upsurge in fraudulent communications adds insult to injury and will be a further kick in the teeth for anyone unfortunate enough to be caught out.”

How does the scam work?

Scammers typically contact people by letter, email or text, posing as TV Licensing – the body responsible for collecting the licence fee.

They then say that there’s been a problem with their TV licence fee payment or that the victim needs to pay up now.

There have been almost 18,000 reports of people receiving fraudulent TV licence emails and hundreds of crime reports in which the victim has lost out financially in the past year, according to Age UK.

Ms Abrahams says: “Fraud in all its guises is a real risk to older people’s finances and to their wellbeing too, and the reality is that fraudsters are merciless and it’s all too easy to be taken in.

“Our advice is to be ultra-cautious about any communications you receive linked to TV licences.” 

She adds: “Of course this problem is only arising because the government passed responsibility for free licences to the BBC without the money to pay for them, and this enhanced risk of scams is just the latest in the long list of reasons why the government should stump up the funding to allow TV licences to remain free for all our over-75s.”

USNewsRank has approached the BBC for comment. A spokesperson says: “We take these issues very seriously and we are doing everything we can to help protect our customers against fraudsters by ensuring they can distinguish between what is a genuine TV Licensing communication and what is a scam.

“Our advice is that if people are unsure about a communication they’ve received, they should contact us directly and we can help. We never contact customers out of the blue to ask for bank details, personal information, or to tell them that they may be entitled to a refund.

“For our customers who are over 75 and have a free TV licence, we will not cold call them and will provide the information they need to contact and engage with TVL directly. Anyone who is concerned about communications that seem suspicious, you can call on 0300 790 6112 or visit www.tvl.co.uk/scam.”

Why the BBC is scrapping the TV licence

After the Conservative government shifted the cost of the licence fee for over-75s to the BBC, the corporation was left between a rock and a hard place: either scrap the concession for the elderly or cut broadcasting services.

The cost of funding the TV licence for people aged over 75 is £745 million a year.

The BBC says that to renew the scheme would cost around a fifth of its budget – the equivalent to what it spends on BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies.

The current licence fee costs £154.50 for a colour licence and £52 for a black and white licence.

The scrapping of the licence means up to 3.7 million pensioners will have to start paying from June 2020.