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O2 warns Britons 'be vigilant' of rise in energy grant scam text – what to look out for


Virgin Media O2 is warning customers to “be vigilant” of a harmful energy bill grant scam rising in the UK.

The fake ‘ECO4’ energy efficiency grant text messages sent by scammers are fraudulently using the Government energy efficiency scheme and other energy bill support programmes as a ploy to trick customers into handing over personal data or payment details.

They are now the fourth most common texts reported and blocked on Virgin Media O2’s mobile network.

Murray Mackenzie, director of fraud at Virgin Media O2, said “The rise in fraudulent messages linked to Government schemes designed to tackle fuel poverty shows that scammers will stop at nothing when it comes to targeting their victims.

“That’s why it’s more important than ever to stay vigilant and take time before acting on an unexpected text.”

He added: “We blocked more than 89 million fraudulent texts from reaching customers last year, but with fraudsters continuously using new tactics to pray on their victims, we encourage customers to help by reporting suspicious messages for free to 7726 so we can investigate and stop scammers in their tracks.”

Following the warning, National Energy Action (NEA), the national charity working to end fuel poverty, has suggested anyone who facing financial hardship and struggling with energy bills to contact their energy supplier or local authority as they’ll have a range of support measures available.

People can also check whether a company is verified to work on Government schemes by searching for the business on TrustMark’s website, the government-endorsed quality scheme.

More advice is also on NEA’s website, which is one of more than 60 websites offering financial, health, education and wellbeing guidance that have been zero-rated on O2’s network.

This means any O2 customer can visit the site without using any of their data allowance.

According to Virgin Media O2, the energy grant scam texts may look like one of the following:

  • Great news! The ECO4 grants have gone live in the XX area, reply yes to get free energy efficiency upgrades to your property and save hundreds on energy bills
  • Govuk: we have identified you as eligible for a discounted energy bill under the energy bill support scheme. You can apply here: [website]
  • Gov-uk: due to the energy bill support scheme, you are owed; 400 under the discounted energy bill. You can apply here: [website]
  • Funding is now live in your area your property has pre-qualified for free energy saving grants to help with increased energy costs, to apply reply yes now.

Customers can help stop spam messages by forwarding suspicious texts or calls for free to 7726 – which spells ‘SPAM’ on an alphanumeric phone keypad – on any network.

By reporting messages, it makes it easier for new trends to be identified and shut down faster.

Numbers reported to Virgin Media O2 are blocked whilst messages are analysed to help improve the company’s firewall technology – which uses machine learning to identify new spam patterns and attempts.

In 2023 alone, 89 million scam texts were detected and stopped from reaching customers, helping to protect them from potential fraud, in part thanks to reports to 7726.

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