Scarborough’s hotels are being targeted by a gang of fraudsters in a parcel scam that police believe could be “rife” in the town.
African men posing as international students are booking rooms at the hotels, but instead of enjoying the sights they spend their whole stay in reception.
As high-end goods are delivered, including a £400 Dyson vacuum cleaner and £44 designer underwear, the men sign for the parcels before they have a chance to reach the reception desk.
Scarborough PC Adrian Sartain, who has been investigating the frauds, said: “It would appear to be an internet-based credit card fraud where goods are being ordered from mail-order companies using other people’s bank details and the hotel as a postal address.
“They are mostly designer goods which have either been bought for personal use or to sell on.”
An arrest has been made in connection with an offence at a hotel on the north side of the town and police have seized a number of the items, which come from companies such as John Lewis and Amazon.
PC Sartain said: “As a result of that arrest, a message was put on Hotel Watch and two other hotels have disclosed similar offences.”
Police officers are now warning hotel owners to be extra vigilant and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward if they believe they have also been a victim of the scam.
“I would like anyone with information to contact me. I want to know how rife it is. It may be that it is prevalant in summer. I think there are more hotels involved but they are oblivious to what’s going on,” said PC Sartain.
“There are three hotels that I now know have been targeted since April, with up to 10 parcels of luxury goods delivered to each. They are in north, central and south Scarborough so it is very likely they are being cherry picked.
“By doing it on a regular basis and in a busy environment, it is unusual behaviour. But because the hotels and reception areas aren’t staffed 24-hours-a-day, some people don’t know how many parcels are actually being delivered.
“Who stays a week and spends each morning in reception?
“You come to Scarborough to go out and visit the beach, not to collect parcels.
“I want hotel owners to keep an eye out for anything that seems out of the ordinary and to contact us as soon as possible if they believe they have been targeted.”
Police are still trying to track two men in connection with the frauds, which have been traced back to addresses, including colleges, in other parts of the country.
“The people involved are from out of town. It is not local students that are involved,” said PC Sartain.
Anyone with information is being urged to contact PC Sartain at Scarborough Police Station on 101.
Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.