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Scam alert: Look out for fake Crown Prosecution Service emails

Published 11 November 2016 by

On a day-to-day basis, your email inbox probably fills up quite quickly. It's likely that there will be the usual promotional offers, marketing emails and notes from your grandmother. But what if you got an email telling you that you need to appear in court?

That’s exactly what has happened to a number of worried people who got an email supposedly from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). To make sure you know what to look out for when it comes to this scam email, we're taking you through the details.

Summoned to court

The email entitled "You've been witness summoned to court" claims to be from the CPS. It ask you to click on a link to view the start time and details of the case you're supposedly involved in.

The majority of emails have featured the same wording as below:

"You are hereby summoned to attend court to give evidence. It is extremely mandatory that you read the subpoena you received very closely. This will state exactly what the procedures will be if you fail to do what is required of you.     

"Sincerely Witness Care Unit Agent Mr. Bradley."

The email then goes on to detail the location and information of the court. The email has no connection to the CPS and they have said that they never email witnesses to summon them to court.

It is likely the link in the email leads to malware. This is malicious software and if you accidentally install it, it could collect your sensitive information such as your bank account details. It could even install ransomware on your computer.

If you receive an email like this, you shouldn't download any attachments or click on any links.

Protect yourself

Fraudsters know that you're more likely to click on links or attachments in an email if you're in a panic – that's why they choose such dramatic subjects to lure you in.

To make sure you don't fall for a scam like this, take note of the following tips.

• Be cautious if you receive an email with a generic opening like 'Dear customer' or 'Dear Mr/Mrs' – large organisations like the CPS should know your name.

• Look out for poor grammar or spelling in emails that you receive out of the blue. These can often be tell-tale signs of a phishing scam.

• Never open attachments or links included in unsolicited emails. You can find the true destination of the URL by hovering your mouse over it. The real URL address will show up in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen.

• Make sure you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your computer. There are free programmes available such as AVG or AVAST.

• Trust your instinct – if something doesn't look right or you know the information to be false, just delete the email.

If you believe yourself to be a victim of a scam like this, report it to Action Fraud.

This is not the first time fraudsters have used a well-known organisation to scam their victims – you can read about the HMRC text scam here.

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