Council warn over scam

DEVON County Council Trading Standards Service is urging consumers and newspapers to be on their guard after a national scam reached the South West.

DEVON County Council Trading Standards Service is urging consumers and newspapers to be on their guard after a national scam reached the South West.

Recently a number of local newspapers have carried half or full page adverts which advertised cheap electrical goods such as mobile phones, digital cameras, MP3 Players and vacuum cleaners at discount prices.

Telephone and fax numbers and email addresses are given to place orders, however when customers call, they are asked to transfer money directly to a bank account in order to receive the goods.

It is not believed that any goods are ever received and if a customer calls to complain they may be asked to pass on their own bank details to receive a refund.

The telephone numbers used are either public pay phones or mobile phones, which are used only for a short time. Business addresses given do not relate to the phone numbers. Newspapers are provided with false details by the advertiser.

Names used so far include "Office Bits Warehouse"; "Office Supplies Warehouse" and "Gadget Company".

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Stephen Gardiner, Devon Trading Standards Special Investigations Unit Manager warned: "At first sight these adverts look convincing but this is part of a complex scam, which has been running in both the UK and Eire. It is not usual to purchase goods in this way and consumers should certainly not part with their bank details to people they do not know."

It is anticipated the fraudsters may try to place more adverts using different names and phone numbers and newspapers are being asked to check the details they are given carefully. City of London Police are investigating and anyone who thinks they may have been a victim is being asked to contact Consumer Direct on 0854 04 05 06. Their advisors have been briefed on the scam and the details the police require. If you think you have passed your bank details on, you should also contact your bank to let them know.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services, said: "We fear these kinds of scams are under-reported. If you think you've been a victim get in touch with Consumer Direct. Never give out personal financial information or be pressured into sending money - take your time to check out the company."

People wanting advice in relation to consumer goods and services can phone Consumer Direct on 08454 040506. Devon County Council Trading Standards Service has a business helpline on 01392 381381. You can also report illegal trading activity to Devon Trading Standards Service, anonymously if you wish, via its confidential phone line 'Trading Standards Confidential' on 01392 381380.

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