We’ve all heard about the Nigerian prince who needs us to cash a cheque so he can get his hands on the money that is rightfully his... but what about the vicar of Abuja who wants to bring his clerics for a seaside holiday?
Blackpool hoteliers are being urgently warned about a spate of scams which have bombarded the resort in the summer season.
Many come from Nigeria, which has had a reputation for being a centre for online scam attempts over the years, but some appear to come from closer to home.
The one thing in common is that they involve the hotelier agreeing a long booking and then sending some money to the potential customer.
Hoteliers organisation StayBlackpool has issued a warning this week to its members, highlighting the dangers of the scams.
Chairman Claire Smith, who owns the Number One South Beach Hotel, said members have had loads this summer.
She said: “It must be the time of year, I have had four this week.
“In the old days the scams were easy to spot but now they look a lot more organised.
“They offer to book your rooms for six, 12, 14 nights, which is very tempting. That could earn a hotel owner a lot of money.
“We just don’t want someone new to the business or an inexperienced member of staff getting caught out and losing a lot of money.
“We have heard of a couple of people being stung.
“They follow a similar pattern – saying their company will pay by banker’s cheque which includes their money for their travel expenses which they would like you to forward to them before they come.
“But as soon as you reply to their initial email you can tell something is not quite right.
“I have had ones from oil companies and even one from a bishop wanting to bring six ordained priests from Nigeria!”
Phil Brown, from the Holmsdale Hotel on Pleasant Street, said the scammers were becoming more sophisticated and he was concerned that businesses could lose money either directly or by turning down bookings after being asked to reserve rooms by scammers.
He said: “Similar scams have been around for a long time but these are a bit more sophisticated.
“Quite a lot come from Nigeria, but I have had them from France and from this country, too. They can look convincing but there is always the same pattern.
“When I mentioned it to other members of StayBlackpool they all said they had seen these new scams, too. Sometimes they offer to pay with one credit card and then cancel and ask you to refund it to another card. We know several people who have been taken in and we want to warn everyone about it.”
The StayBlackpool warning states: “It’s always hard when you receive enquiries and you need bookings to actually tell if they are real or not. Our advice with any enquiry that seems a little unusual is to proceed with ‘extreme caution’.
“The scam artists are getting more and more sophisticated than the ones before and we seem to get ones regularly from the Vicar of Nigeria bringing 25 delegates to Blackpool in March!”