A GRANDMOTHER of five is warning people to extra vigilant and cautious after falling victim to a scam company.

Jean Ball, of Lovely Lane, was searching for ways to earn money while she set up her new business selling aloe vera products.

The 53-year-old applied for a freelance research and data gathering job, which she had seen advertised, via e-mail.

Jean said: “When I saw the advert I thought it was worth applying for as you needed no qualifications and you could work in your own time.

“But it was a friend who became suspicious and warned be to be careful. It turns out they were right.”

The mother of four e-mailed the company, which did not advertise its name, to register her interest and was told that she had been accepted as an agent who will complete secret surveys on outlets and restaurants.

She was informed that she would be sent a cheque of which she must deduct her payment of £320 before transferring the rest of the balance to a colleague.

Jean was then told she must carry out the undercover studies and report back with a detailed evaluation of the outlet’s services.

“I was never asked for my bank details so I didn’t think anything of it,” said Jean, who volunteers for the John Holt Cancer Support.

But following her friend’s warning, Jean visited her bank and questioned what would happen if the cheque turned out to fake and was told she would be charged £7.

The cheque turned out to be a fraudulent and she was charged £51.99 by the French bank where the cheque was alleged to have originated from.

“I live off £65 a week so this has left me with next to nothing. I know I’m not going to get the money back but I just want to raise awareness so people will be more careful in the future.”

Avoiding Scams. What to do.

Scams can be avoided when you know what to look for. It is always best to be sceptical when signing anything or handing over money and, if an exciting offer seems too good to be true, think about the following warning signs.

Was the offer unsolicited?

Do you have to respond quickly?

Do you have to pay for a prize or free gift?

Do you have to ring a premium rate number, normally one starting with 09?

Are you being asked for your bank or credit card details?

Is the business reluctant to give you its address or contact details?

Are you being asked to keep the offer confidential?

If you are a victim of a scam, or need advice call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.