SCHOOLS and council services in West Yorkshire have been hit by telesales scams.
Kirklees Council’s Environmental Health department is among the authority-run services that have fallen victim to the conmen as well as several schools in the area.
Trading Standards chiefs are now warning all council services to be on their guard following a number of complaints which has seen some left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Graham Hebblethwaite, chief officer of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “Such scams are currently targeting council services throughout West Yorkshire.
“Please be on your guard for similar types of scams and don’t be afraid of challenging suspect orders and invoices.”
The plea comes after its advice line Consumer Direct received complaints from council departments and schools that had been billed for services following misleading sales calls.
They included Kirklees Environmental Health, which was sent a package containing drug awareness booklets apparently for a local school with an invoice for the department.
A phone call was then received from the sales company who played a ‘recording’ of the environmental health officer apparently agreeing to the order.
But the recording was false as the officer was on annual leave on the date the order was made.
Officials would not say which schools were involved, but confirmed that a number from Kirklees had reported similar scams.
Schools were targeted for electrical testing and training websites.
In the first case a phone call was received from a person claiming to be from the council advising that the school’s electrical testing is due.
An engineer then arrived to carry out the testing and the school was invoiced.
Schools were also contacted being offered a free trial to a training materials website.
But the caller failed to advise that unless the contract was cancelled within the free trial period, the school was bound to a 12-month contract.
Another example of scam was schools being charged for recruitment advertising.
The scam usually works with the school advertising a job in the Times Educational Supplement.
The school then receives a call claiming to be from the Times advising it that the advert needs checking.
The advert usually has a spelling mistake which is pointed out to the school and the school is asked to amend the advert and fax it back.
Clr Mohan Sokhal, a Kirklees councillor on the Trading Standards Committee, said: “Council departments have ended up finding themselves paying for goods or services costing thousands of pounds in some cases.
“I urge all managers within council departments to pass the alert on to all members of staff.”