Scamwatch: Game of Thrones fraud

HBO Streaming
HBO Streaming

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, a sneaky new email scam targeted at Game of Thrones fans who download the series illegally.

How does it work?

While lots of people watch the popular HBO series Game of Thrones on television, many more download episodes online. And some of the latter group break the law by downloading them for free.

Now though, the many people who do this are under attack by fraudsters keen to use their guilt to trick them into paying non-existent fines.

They do this by sending out "phishing" emails purporting to be from HBO's computer security partner IP-Echelon and threatening them with legal action unless they make a "settlement payment" within 72 hours.

The emails, which include a link to make a payment, state: "You have 72 hours to access the settlement offer and settle online. If you fail to settle, the claim(s) will be referred to our attorneys for legal action.

"At that point the original settlement offer will no longer be an option and the amount will increase as a result of us having to involve our attorneys."

How can I avoid being caught out?

While IP-Echelon does send out notices warning people about illegal downloads of HBO series, it does not make payment demands. So any such demands should be ignored as the work of fraudsters.

In fact, emails threatening legal action for any online activity should be treated with caution - especially if they include a demand for payment of a fine.

Never send any money before calling the organisation concerned to check the validity of the email. And always use a telephone number from the company's official website rather than calling any numbers listed in the email.

Other top tips to help you avoid falling for scams of this kind include checking the address the email is sent from and being wary of messages that are not addressed to you by name.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you used a debit card or a transfer for send money from your bank account to a fraudulent organisation, your chances of getting it back are slim.

However, it is worth contacting your bank to try to recoup your losses, as well as to secure your accounts.

If you used a credit card, you may be able to get a refund under rules stating the card provider is "jointly and severally liable" for any problems.

Anyone who has been the victim of internet crime should also report the problem to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).