THE Police and Trading Standards officers are working hard to ensure fraudsters and scammers who target residents and businesses across Dumbarton and the Vale don’t get an easy ride.

Tony Cairns, team leader at West Dunbartonshire Council’s Trading Standards, told the Reporter: “We are very much intelligence based. We used to be more proactive but now so much of our work is based on consumer complaints and we gather intelligence and put it on to a database and share it with our colleagues and other consumer standards. It helps to build a picture up.

“Quite a common trick we see is people responding to mystery shopper adds where they are paid £50 a time. They are sent a cheque in advance which has apparently cleared and are then contacted and informed they have been overpaid and are asked to return the excess amount. The original cheque then doesn’t clear, so what might appear to be a cleared cheque isn’t always the case.” He offered this advice to businesses: “Always read the small print whether it be offers to be included in a business directory or what appears to be a demand or to register for VAT or data protection. Make as many robust checks as you can into the companies or individuals you are dealing with.

Detective chief inspector Calum Young, from Police Scotland’s L Division which covers Dumbarton and the Vale, said: “We don’t get a large volume of these types of crime but the elderly are most at risk from them. We would always advise that if in doubt don’t open the doors to callers and use common sense, ask to see identification before you do.

“We have had four or five instances of card skimming within the police division recently and anyone using an ATM should always shield their PIN number when using them.

“One unusual scam we came across recently involved a cold-caller who contacted an elderly victim saying he was from the Ministry of Justice and that he was due a refund of a sum of money in the region of £3,500 to £4,000 but that there was a 10 per cent handling fee. The victim was directed to a shop in the area where he could buy Ukash vouchers, which could be used for an online cash transfer.

“Thankfully the victim’s family intervened.” Any residents or businesses with complaints or concerns can report them to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or online advice can be found at

Tips for avoiding fraud -- RESIDENTS across Dumbarton and the Vale are more likely to encounter fraud online than anywhere else, but bogus workmen and doorstep crime are still a problem particularly for the elderly and vulnerable in the community.

Types of scams to be aware of include: Doorstep conmen — cold callers can use pressure selling techniques for overpriced or substandard home improvement or maintenance jobs that may not be required.

Bogus workmen — turn up at the door pretending to be from organisations such as the council or energy companies and then once inside the property they steal from unsuspecting victims.

Subscription traps — offer ‘free’ trials and misuse advertising to take money from people’s accounts without them knowing.

Computers — some unscrupulous companies use legal loopholes to sell their products. An example of this is companies who cold call and ask you to log on to your home computer or laptop. When prompted by a dialogue box they ask you to click on it. They are then able to access your computer remotely and can install software, demand a fee for ‘cleaning’ your system, or worse still access all your personal details and passwords.

Card skimming — devices used at cash machines to steal the details of credit and debit cards.

There are a number of simple steps you can take to safeguard your personal information: On internet profiles such as Facebook only make the minimum available, your name, and don’t post your address or date of birth.

Create strong passwords using three words or more, use different ones for different accounts. For security include a symbol and use upper and lower case letters and numbers.

Check your bank and financial statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank.

Rip up or shred personal and financial documents when getting rid of them.