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Trading Standards issue scam website warning

01/08/14

Aberdeen City Council Trading Standards team is warning job hunters to beware of scam websites offering online training courses for the offshore oil and gas industry.

The warning follows a complaint from a graduate seeking work in the oil industry who applied for a vacancy through the website First Oil Energy. According to its website www.firstoilenergy.co.uk, "First Oil Energy was founded in July 2008 on the fundamental principles of applying state-of-the-art petroleum and natural gas exploration and extraction technology to the development of onshore oil and natural gas projects."

The hopeful job hunter was informed that he would be offered a post on condition that he undertook an online training course through Oil Education and its website www.oileducation.co.uk/.Oil Education claims on its website to have been "working at the forefront of our industry" since 2005 and to "deliver over 200,000 learning events in over 30 countries and more than 20 languages" every year. A three-figure sum was paid for the training course, but then Oil Education contacted the job hunter to inform him that the fee was incorrect, and the correct amount should be 1000 more. Oil Education agreed to refund the amount already paid but when no refund was received after three weeks, the job hunter made a complaint to the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline, which was then referred to Trading Standards.

Inquiries by Trading Standards quickly established that both websites appeared to be part of an elaborate scam. The websites had been registered in the last two months by individuals who had identified themselves as non-trading UK individuals. Further checks found that much of the website content, including the biographies of the directors and the company names and addresses had been copied from legitimate companies.

Registration information for most websites can be checked through a 'Whois' search, such as the Nominet Whois tool http://www.nominet.org.uk/uk-domain-names/about-domain-names/domain-lookup-whois/whois-tool which shows the name and address given by the registrant for websites in the UK domain. If the website has only recently been registered, or the registrant is a named individual, particularly one who wishes to withhold his address, or declares they are "non-trading" it is unlikely to be a reputable and well-established national company.

Carole Jackson, Environmental Health and Trading Standards Manager, Aberdeen City Council, said: "We are concerned that people looking to improve their career opportunities are being targeted by such websites. There are genuine online learning course providers, and a list of those applicable to the Oil and Gas industry can be checked on the website of OPITO, the industry's focal point for skills, training and workforce development http://www.opito.com/training-providers or by contacting them on (01224) 787800."

Anyone who wants to report a suspected scam should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service National Advice line on 03454 04 05 06; if anyone has paid money it may be a fraud and it should be reported to the Police on 101 or through the Action Fraud website http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/.