Businesses in Tendring are being alerted to a new scam which has been tried in parts of Essex and East London.
Licensing officers from Tendring District Council (TDC) are urging premises with alcohol licences to be aware of the fraud.
The scam involves fraudsters posing as council licensing officers at businesses such as off licences and asking for their annual fee to be paid in cash.
The bogus officers can be very convincing and have correct details such as the exact amount of the fee and the names of actual council officials.
TDC is reminding businesses that officers will always carry official ID, and will never ask for instant payment by cash or even by card.
Requests for payment will always be made in writing, and official payments will be made at a Council office or via the Council’s online system.
If anyone is unsure about the identity of someone claiming to be a TDC licensing official – even if they have ID – they should call the team on 01255 686565 to verify the person is genuine.
Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of this type of fraud, or an attempt, is asked to save any CCTV they may have of the incident and to contact the licensing team on the number above or at email@example.com – businesses should also inform Essex Police on 101 and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Cllr Fred Nicholls, Cabinet Member for Corporate Enforcement at TDC, said although there had been no reported instances of this in the District, it was important businesses were on their guard.
“It is always important to remember that if something doesn’t feel right, then check it out,” he said.
“If in doubt then please call our team to verify the identity of the person in front of you. If they are genuine they will be happy to wait while you do so.
“I also reinforce the point that TDC will never ask for an instant payment, even if a receipt is offered as has been the case in some places where this fraud has been carried out.”
It is thought off licences, smaller restaurants and pubs may be targeted in particular, but all businesses are urged to be cautious and heed the above advice.