Detectives are urging the public not to get into unlicensed taxis when going out or getting home after a night out.

The Force is aware of new groups emerging on social media platforms in Bournemouth and Poole where drivers are operating unofficial taxi or lift services.

Members of the public are risking their own safety by getting into an unlicenced vehicle belonging to someone who has not been vetted.

Detective Constable Christian Bryant, of Bournemouth CID, said: “Unlicensed drivers will not have undergone background checks, are unlikely to be insured to carry passengers in their vehicles which could be in a dangerous condition, and may be targeting lone and vulnerable men and women.

“We would urge the public not to use the services of people offering lifts on unofficial social media groups and instead book a lift with a licensed and reputable taxi company.

“There is an inherent risk in accepting lifts from strangers and most people wouldn’t dream of doing so, but for women travelling alone, getting into an unlicensed cab is just as risky as getting into the car of a complete stranger.”

Councillor Bobbie Dove, portfolio holder for Community Safety and Regulatory Services at BCP Council, said: “We would also advise that anyone getting in a car with someone that they don’t know to think again. You are putting your personal safety at risk as you do not know the background of the people you are getting into a car with, and you do not know how safe the car is.

“All licenced private hire and taxi drivers undergo regular criminal record checks and their cars are examined at accredited garages every six months to ensure they are safe.”

To report concerns or a crime you can contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk/do-it-online, via email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101. Alternatively, independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling Freephone 0800 555 111.