CONSUMERS are being warned to be on their guard after an increase in the number of scams reported to Derbyshire County Council.
The authority’s trading standards team received 690 reports of con attempts from members of the public from April 2011 to March 2012.
It was a 24 per cent increase on the 556 complaints received for the same period the previous year.
Two types of complaint have showed a sharp rise − one targeting home computer users and another which fraudulently claims cashable vouchers.
Scammers telephone householders claiming they have a virus or security problem on their home computer.
They attempt to persuade them to log on and allow them remote access, enabling them to gain personal information and bank details.
Victims are asked for payment by debit or credit card. These details may then be shared with criminals and the security of the victim’s computer compromised.
The other scam which has showed a significant increase involves a telephone call or email telling people they are eligible for a tax or insurance refund or encouraging them to enter into a loan agreement.
Callers try to get people to buy Ukash vouchers − which are sold in high street stores and each have a unique redemption code to act as a type of currency.
The scammer persuades the victim to share the code so that they can cash the voucher, but the promised windfall does not exist.
Councillor Kevin Parkinson, Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: “We work hard to publicise the work our trading standards officers do to combat the work of criminals and are pleased so many people have come forward to alert us to problems they have faced.
“We would urge members of the public to be extra cautious. These fraudsters have only one thing in mind − to con people out of money.
“I would urge people to use reputable companies who are registered with our Trusted Trader scheme and not to use firms which cold call either on the doorstep, by telephone or email.
“The simple advice is that if an offer appears too good to be true it probably is.”
Anyone who thinks they’ve been approached by scammers should call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506.
Over 1,000 traders are listed on the Derbyshire Trusted Trader scheme. Visit: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/tt.