A LOCAL business owner has hit out at online con artists after their social media channel was imitated.

The Corbridge Larder had been running a competition for customers when a fake account was set up purporting to be the business. Customers were contacted to say they had won and should enter personal information to claim their prize.

Now, Jen Horton has spoken of the, potentially, lasting damage to businesses who fall foul to online crooks.

“As with everything, it’s the minority that spoil it for the majority”, she said. “We were trying to build our brand online and people were probably scared of liking our page. It gives a very bad impression of us - even though we were innocent in it. It can leave a bad taste in the mouth for the customer.

“The sad thing is, in this world, there’s always people who will try and take advantage of any situation - no matter how bad. It’s just such a shame, especially when there’s been a lot of good within communities, that you get nasty people trying to take advantage of businesses.”

Concerned customers contacted Facebook and Jen believes the page has now been removed.

She added: “We’re going to see more and more cybercrimes - it’s an easy way to do it. Crime used to be people near you, now it can be anywhere in the world. It’s people with no morals. If they’re doing it online, they don’t see it as humans or businesses at the end of it.”

Jen admitted their negative experience would make her think twice about doing another competition, for fear of damage to reputation, and if she did, a disclaimer would have to be added.

“The saddest thing was all these people saying ‘I thought I’d won’

“It also makes you think, what else are they looking at, is anything safe?”