Architects have become the main target for fraudsters posing as data protection officials.
According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), architecture firms are being tricked into shelling out £135 by bogus agencies promising to register them under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).
With names such as 'Data Protection Agency Registration Services', the agencies often use threatening language and 'official-looking' headed notepaper to scare businesses into paying.
Assistant information commissioner Phil Jones said: 'If you receive a letter out of the blue demanding more than £35 to register under the DPA, this will be a scam. Our simple message is to throw the letter in the bin and not pay the fee demanded.'
Since February 2003 the ICO has received almost 60,000 complaints from a range of businesses, including architects' firms.
'Over the past two years these scams have cost British business many thousands of pounds, ' Jones added.
The statutory fee for notification is just £35 a year. Visit www. informationcommissioner.gov. uk for further details.