NCSC reveals top government email impersonation scams taken down in 2022

Public encouraged to continue reporting suspicious emails after 6.4 million reports were received in 2022.

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  • NHS tops list of government impersonation scams reported and taken down through the Suspicious Email Reporting Service  (SERS)
  • GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre shares top tips on how to spot and report suspicious messages  
  • Public urged to stay alert for scammers using exploitative tactics as we head into 2023 

Cyber security experts have today revealed the top six government impersonation scams they have removed from the internet in 2022 as they urged the public to remain vigilant to cyber crime in the year ahead. 

The scams unveiled by the National Cyber Security Centre – a part of GCHQ – included phishing emails and messages from cyber criminals impersonating well-known HMG brands, such as the NHS, HMRC and Ofgem.  

Phishing involves the attempt by hackers to trick people into doing ‘the wrong thing’, such as clicking a bad link that will download malware or direct them to a fake website. Their aim is often to make recipients visit a website, which may download a virus onto their computer, ask you to make a payment or steal bank details and other sensitive information. 

Cyber criminals often seek to exploit topical events to make their phishing attempts more convincing. In 2022, the NCSC saw scammers exploit the rising cost of living with Ofgem energy bill support scams and HMRC tax rebate scams, while scammers continued to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to attempt PCR test scams.  

The top HMG branded attacks that have been reported to SERS that have resulted in takedowns are:

  1. National Health Service (NHS)
  2. TV Licensing
  3. HM Revenue & Customs
  5. DVLA
  6. Ofgem

The NCSC encourages the public to forward suspect emails to its Suspicious Email Reporting Service at, while suspicious texts should be forwarded to 7726.

SERS received 6.4 million reports during 2022, with 67,300 scam URLs removed as a result. This brings the total number of reports to SERS since its launch in 2020 to 15.8m, with 198,500 takedowns.

Sarah Lyons, NCSC Deputy Director for Economy and Society Resilience, said:  

“We know cyber criminals try to exploit trends and current affairs to make their scams seem convincing and sadly our latest data shows 2022 was no exception. 

“By shining a light on these scams we want to help people more easily spot the common tricks fraudsters use, so that ultimately they can stay safer online.   

“There is much more advice on the NCSC’s website about spotting suspicious messages, along with our Cyber Aware guidance to help people protect their devices.”   

Mike Glassey, Ofgem Chief Information Security Officer, said:

“Protecting consumers is our top priority and it is alarming that vulnerable customers are being preyed upon when people are already struggling so much with energy bills.

“That’s why, as energy regulator, on top of issuing our own warnings and advice, we have asked all energy suppliers to ensure clear and up to date information on scams is easily accessible on their websites.

“We take these attempts to exploit consumers very seriously and work with the National Cyber Security Centre to prevent these malicious attacks – identifying and responding- in near real-time- to over 100 of these phishing campaigns in 2022 alone. Our Energy Aware campaign is a one stop shop for all energy consumers to get help, support and advice on scams and other energy bill issues – Energy advice for households | Ofgem.”

Ahead of the New Year and the January sales, the NCSC is also urging people to follow its Cyber Aware advice to protect their online accounts from scammers seeking to steal personal details and sensitive information.  

Specifically, people should set up 2-step verification and use three random words passwords to prevent cyber criminals gaining access to email accounts.  

The NCSC also urges shoppers to check before they buy, and use secure payment methods in order to stay ahead of the threat from criminals during 2023 and beyond:  

  • Choose carefully where you shop: Research online retailers, particularly if you haven’t bought from them before, to check they’re legitimate. Read feedback from people or organisations that you trust, such as consumer websites. 
  • Pay securely: Use a credit card when shopping online, if you have one. Most major credit card providers protect online purchases and are obliged to refund you in certain circumstances. Using a credit card (rather than a debit card) also means that if your payment details are stolen, your main bank account won’t be directly affected. Also consider using a payment platform, such as PayPal, Google or Apple Pay. And whenever you pay, look for the closed padlock in the web address bar – it means your connection is secure. 

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