AN ADVICE information service fell victim to an online scam demanding hundreds of pounds.

The Bridport Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) has spoken out to warn internet users of the dangers of opening emails from unknown senders.

Project officer Shaun Powell said the incident shows how easy it is to be the victim of a scam.

He said: “It is something that can happen to anyone.

“We opened up an email because we were expecting an invoice and the virus was actually in a file where the invoice was attached.

“We opened the file and a big red warning message came across the whole screen, saying that all the files had been locked and demanding a payment of £500 to unlock everything.”

Luckily Mr Powell was able to call on the CAB’s IT department for help in unlocking the computer.

He added: “Clearly we did not give in to this blackmail as there is no guarantee that the computer would have been unlocked. Thankfully it only affected one computer, which we were able to isolate and successfully remove the malware.”

The service spoke out in the first week of Scams Awareness Month, and Mr Powell said he hopes their experience will stop others becoming victims.

He said: “Only five per cent of scams are actually reported. I think when people fall victim to this kind of crime there is a feeling of shame or embarrassment at being caught out, so they do not report it.

“But it is important to raise awareness and put people on their guard.”

The Bridport CAB has issued advice following the incident. Those using emails should not open it if they do not recognise the sender. Read the subject line to see if is an email you were expecting and watch out for spelling or grammatical errors, as these are often found in scam emails.

Anyone who does receive what they suspect to be a scam email should not reply to it, open any attachments or click on any links.

If you have already clicked on a link, do not give out any personal information. The Bridport CAB will be using the awareness month to advise residents on different types of scams each week. Mr Powell said: “We are running this campaign throughout May and will be looking at the different channels of scams each week.

“That’s email, post, telephone and doorstep scams.”