South Tynesiders are being warned to be on their guard against fraudsters.
As part of national Scams Awareness Month, South Tyneside Council’s trading standards team has joined forces with Citizens Advice and the Trading Standards Institute to fight back against con artists.
This year’s campaign warns against being taken in by scams online, over the phone, by mail and on the doorstep.
South Tyneside Council’s trading standards service has recently seen an increase in complaints about lookalike websites.
Consumers have complained of sites purporting to be the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, passport or tax offices or other Government departments taking fees for processing applications.
While some of these websites do offer a checking service for a fee, residents are always urged to read the small print. The majority of genuine government websites end in .gov.uk
People are also urged to be wary of non-secure websites that ask for financial details.
E-mails supposedly from social networks, online auctions and banks are also popular among criminals.
Recipients are sometimes advised that there is a problem with their account and told they need to log on immediately via a link in the e-mail.
These links lead to an almost identical but fake page, specifically set up to take personal details.
Genuine companies do not generally ask people to log in from a link on an e-mail and will already have the individual’s account details.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “Sites and e-mails can be very well put together and look like an official e-mail from a bank, social networking site or online retailer, but they are fake and aim to get people to disclose personal sensitive information or confidential usernames and passwords.
“We would strongly urge people online to help protect themselves against cons of this type.
“Throughout May, our trading standards team is looking at these types of commonly used scams and helping local people to take steps so that they don’t get caught out.
“We all hope that we will never fall victim to a scam, but, unfortunately, these criminals are very clever and are always seeking new variations on familiar schemes. They have well-honed techniques that create a sense of urgency, opportunity or threat.
“Scams Awareness Month gives us an ideal opportunity to highlight the various types of scams being employed and ensure people are well informed in how to deal with them.”
During the month, South Tyneside’s trading standards will be using their text alert service to inform residents of the latest scams or rogue traders they are aware of operating in the borough.
To register for the service, residents can text the word ‘doorstep’ to 07786 200 802.
For advice, or to report scams to trading standards, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or visit www.southtyneside.info/tradingstandards