Cold callers are using fire safety risk assessments to pressurise retailers in Morecambe into parting with large amounts of cash.
The alert comes after small independent retailers in the Morecambe area reported being targeted by a salesman offering to produce a fire safety risk assessment for the premise.
The retailers who were cold called were threatened with fines of thousands of pounds if they did not have an assessment in place, and they were put under pressure to sign up immediately.
Officers from Lancashire County Council's trading standards team, Lancashire Police and the Lancashire fire service have visited retailers in the area and distributed information leaflets. They have advised retailers to say a firm 'no' when confronted by high pressure selling tactics.
Janice Hanson, Lancashire County Council's cabinet member for consumer protection and waste, said: "What this shows is that businesses can be as much at risk of cold callers and high pressure selling as householders.
"This awareness campaign provides a clear and strong message to the retailers of Morecambe - never sign up to a contract as a result of a cold call, don't make snap decisions and don't be pressurised into agreeing to anything on the spot.
"Trading standards officers also advise that you should always get a trader's full name and address before agreeing to any work, never rely solely on a mobile telephone number."
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service advises retailers to do their own research before agreeing to buy a written fire risk assessments. In certain circumstances, some small retailers can carry out their own risk assessment.
Lee Munday, fire safety team leader for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is the principle enforcer of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order. We have a duty to provide free advice on what is required in order to comply with fire safety legislation and readily do so.
“It is quite wrong for a salesman to suggest that a fine will be imposed if the proprietor does not engage his services to draft up a fire risk assessment, since enforcing the law is our job and imposing a penalty for non-compliance would only be taken as a last resort.
“Our aim is to ensure that properties are safe, where people can safely go about their business and we will provide ample help, support and guidance to achieve this.”
PCSO Karl Smith, of Morecambe’s west end neighbourhood policing team, said: "Our aim during this operation has been to offer support and reassurance to t! he west end’s small independent businesses.
“Some of our shopkeepers do not have English as their first language, and so, alongside my colleague Helen Chadwick from the police’s diversity link team and our partners in trading standards and the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, we have been paying them a visit to help ensure they are not vulnerable to unscrupulous cold callers trying to take advantage of them.
"Finally, if any of our retailers or residents have concerns about suspicious cold callers, please report them to us via our non-emergency service by calling 101."
• Trading standards advice is available from the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.
• For fire risk assessment advice, visit www.firesafetyguides.communities.gov.uk