Hotels on fraud alert

Hotels and guesthouses in Norfolk are on high alert after repeated attempts to con rural B&Bs out of thousands of pounds. Fraudsters have targeted three premises in villages in the Dereham area using stolen chequebooks and false bankers' drafts.

Hotels and guesthouses in Norfolk are on high alert after repeated attempts to con rural B&Bs out of thousands of pounds.

Fraudsters have targeted three premises in villages in the Dereham area using stolen cheque books and false banker's drafts.

The criminals use the cheques and drafts to book accommodation, overpay by thousands and then demand an immediate refund - often claiming to be a charity.

Tourism association VisitNorwich believes the scam has been unsuccessful so far.

Norfolk police said that people need to be on the lookout for large bookings.

Earlier this year, Clayton Court B&B in Garvestone, near Dereham, was targeted when a company made a multiple booking for £6,000 - using a stolen cheque - only to later ask for a £3,000 refund for various changes.

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Owner Glynn Smith said: "It was obvious that it was a scam. It was just not the norm for multiple bookings, they were asking to add as much as possible to the bill rather than asking for the usual discounts."

Mr Smith said there were inconsistencies that gave away the scam such as the name on the cheque not matching the letter and the company having no VAT registration number.

The latest attempted con took place in Lyng, where a £600 booking was made but the guest house was later contacted asking for a refund as a draft for £3,500 had been sent by mistake.

The fraudsters correspond by e-mail and letter and ignore requests to fill out a booking form. They give a UK address but an international phone number.

In a circular to its members, Emma Leverett of VisitNorwich said: "We urge members to be on their guard and ask that if you hear of, or experience, anything similar to contact us on 01603 727942." Or call Det Con Peter Hawkins of Dereham CID on 0845 4564567 with information.