Council chiefs are warning Wearsiders not to fall prey to cowboy waste collectors.
The alert comes after three Sunderland residents were issued with formal warnings and ordered to pay the costs of removing and disposing of waste they had already paid cowboy collectors to take away.
In each case the waste was later found fly tipped, leaving the householders to pick up the bill for it being collected and disposed of properly by the city council.
In the first case, a Roker resident was charged £193 to remove and dispose of 15 bags and boxes of household waste found fly tipped in the green belt at Salters Lane, Burdon, Houghton.
After the waste was traced back to an address in Roker, the householder admitted to environmental enforcement officers that she had paid £20 to someone who knocked on her door offering to take it away.
In the second case, a double mattress and a number of split carrier bags filled with household waste found scattered across the back lane of Lumley Street, Millfield, were traced back to someone living in Burnville Road South, Eden Vale.
When interviewed, the householder admitted paying £25 for the waste to be taken away by a waste removal company recommended by a customer at work.
He was charged £192 for the waste to be removed and properly disposed of.
In the third case, a resident of May Street, in Millfield, was ordered to pay £68 for the costs of removing and disposing of cardboard boxes and black bin liners found dumped in nearby Rose Street.
She admitted paying a scrap man £10 to dispose of two black bin bags and two cardboard boxes she had been planning to take to take to the tip.
In all three cases, the residents had failed to check that the collectors were authorised to carry waste and held a waste carrier licence.
Fiona Brown, executive director of neighbourhoods at Sunderland City Council, said: "Cowboy waste collectors have no scruples when it comes to fly tipping waste they have been paid to take away. And if they do fly tip your waste, it's you who could end up footing the bill.
“As householders we all have a legal ‘Duty of Care’ to make sure our waste is disposed of lawfully and failing to do so is an offence.
"So if you are thinking of using a private contractor, it’s very important to make sure they are legitimate and have a waste carrier's licence.
"Alternatively the council's bulky waste service only costs £22.50 for up to six items with a £5 surcharge for certain more expensive to dispose of items - which in most cases is much cheaper than a fine or the cost of having the waste collected and disposed of properly when it is fly tipped."
The council's warning comes as the Echo continues its Clean Streets campaign, which calls on Wearsiders to create a cleaner, tidier and more welcoming environment for people to live, and work in.
We are also encouraging readers to report any incidents of fly tipping to the council.
More information about booking a bulky collection visit is available at https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/article/12143/Bulky-waste-collection