CONCERNS have been raised after scammers posed as a council employee to send out spoof emails demanding money.

Earlier this month, fake invoices and requests for payment were sent out from email addresses linked to Darlington Borough Council.

One ex-employee alerted the authorities to report the scam after being tracked down by two people who were worried after receiving invoices electronically signed by them and coming from a email address.

IT experts claim there are a number of ways in which fraudsters could have gained access to the data exploited as part of the scam, including the harvesting of email addresses by external parties using third-party sources, a breach of the council’s databases or employee misconduct.

A council spokesman urged people to be vigilant when opening emails and said the authority took online security seriously and had robust measures in place to "protect the integrity" of systems.

He added: "When an employee stops working for the council, their email address is deactivated shortly afterwards. "Unfortunately, that does not stop determined scammers generating spoof emails purporting to come from that address, even though it no longer exists."

It is not clear how many people the email was sent to but it was received by some in the Darlington area, including 75-year-old Robin Lewis, who alerted the purported sender to the scam.

He said he had previously provided his email address to the council and urged the authority to tighten up their IT security measures to prevent potential breaches, adding: “I think more should be done to tackle these sorts of issues, people are getting scammed.”

The person whose email address was hijacked urged the public to be wary of unsolicited emails and said they believed the matter to be a security breach, adding: “It's worrying - people have been tracking me down thinking I’ve been scamming them because my name’s on the email."

  • To report online scams, call Action Fraud on 0300 1232040.