Unsubscribing from annoying emails seems like a logical thing to do, but it can mean you are actually more likely to be targeted, as criminals realise they are dealing with a real person.
This is the advice from consumer champion Martin Lewis, who told The Mirror that anyone who receives scam emails or texts should not unsubscribe, as it can mean you are more likely to be defrauded.
It’s a twist on the old adage of ‘unsubscribe and delete’, with Lewis now saying it’s more dangerous to hit the unsubscribe link.
It’s well known that scam emails, texts, adverts and websites are out there to try and deceive us, and Lewis has had his own battles with scammers. He’s been the subject of scams featuring images of him, trading on his name to try to rob consumers of their cash.
Lewis, the Money Saving Expert boss, is regarded as someone who is trustworthy and knowledgeable in the world of finance and saving, so naturally scammers pounce on this trust to try and dupe his devotees.
Lewis has always told consumers not to trust these promotions, and that he never does adverts of any kind. But now Lewis has extra advice for consumers who get spam emails and texts from scammers pretending to be him - or any other company or respected figure for that matter: don’t unsubscribe.
Lewis says that unsubscribing is actually the worst thing you can do, as it alerts scammers to the fact that they are dealing with an active email account.
One Twitter user recently tweeted: “Just got this spam email. Definitely don’t click anything if you get it.”
Lewis replied: “Especially DON'T CLICK UNSUBSCRIBE... that just lets the scammers know they've hit an active email address (same applies to scam texts, don't reply stop, it just tells them the number works).
“Forward these scam emails to firstname.lastname@example.org then delete.”
In December, Action Fraud reported seeing 305 cases of phishing scams pretending to be Martin Lewis alone - in just one week.
A statement from the department said: “Action Fraud has received 305 reports about fake emails purporting to be from Martin Lewis.
“A significant uplift has been noted in the number of phishing emails related to Martin Lewis, a well-known financial advisor on social media.
“The email is entitled ‘Martin Lewis: we are in crisis. Follow the revolutionary way to survive financially.’
“The links in the emails lead to phishing websites that are designed to steal your personal and financial information.”
But it’s not just Lewis who has had issues with scams. Big-hitting companies from Paypal to Google to major supermarkets see their company insignia used fraudulently on scam communications, and the government too is used as a phishing hook, particularly around Covid-related topics.
Also, just before Christmas, we shared BBC Breakfast’s warning about fake parcel emails and texts (see below). Although this was a pre-Christmas warning, the scams still exist.
So, in a nutshell, the advice from Martin Lewis is to not unsubscribe, but to forward the email to email@example.com and then delete it.
You can report suspicious text messages for free by forwarding them to 7726. If you forward a text to 7726, your provider can investigate the origin of the text and arrange to block or ban the sender, if it’s found to be malicious.
Action Fraud have more details on reporting phishing scams on their website.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).