The hugely popular hit HBO show "Game of Thrones" was the most pirated program in 2015. It's been a constant problem for HBO and the company often has to send out warning emails to users and take down demands to torrent sites.
But now, even if you're not pirating "Game of Thrones" you could get one of these notices - but it's not what it seems. Scammers have started to send spoof warning emails from HBO in order to get victims to to send over some serious cash.
The spoof emails instruct the victim to pay a few hundred dollars as part of a settlement for being caught pirating Season 6, Episode 10 of "Game of Thrones." The email reads:
"On this regard, request is hereby made that you and all persons using this account immediately and permanently cease and desist the unauthorized copying and/or distribution of the Work listed in this notice. You may also be liable for monetary damages, including court costs and/or attorney fees if a lawsuit is commenced against you."
The email later says you only have 72 hours to complete your settlement, otherwise further legal action will be taken.
Here's a copy of the full scam email:
The email is very convincing and could fool nearly everyone. It is professionally-worded and has minimal typos. So in this case, the best defense might be knowing what HBO's real cease and desist letters look like:
It's important to note that the real cease and desist letter doesn't demand money and there's no time limit. It also specifically names the IP address, whereas the fake email doesn't.
What you can do to stay safe
Scammers are getting trickier by the day, so you'll have to stay one step ahead of them. One way to do this is to know the warning signs and red flags to look for before clicking on any links or sending out any sensitive information.
- Keep an eye out for typos and bad grammar.
- Be able to identify where the email is coming from.
- Hover your mouse over any links before you click to see where they are pointing.
- Click here to take the Phishing Email quiz to see if you can spot all the warning signs of a phishing scam.
- Be wary of email-only wire transfer requests and requests involving urgency.
- Be cautious of mimicked email addresses.
- Practice multi-level authentication.