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More than two scams a day are being reported to some councils as they crack down on criminals running shams.
The scams range from faking online dating and disability parking badge sites to bogus diamond investment schemes and weight-loss devices.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging people to report all scams which cost UK citizens nearly £10 billion a year.
Only five per cent of scams are reported, even though fraud, which includes scams, is now the most common type of crime, accounting for 3.6 million crimes in England and Wales last year alone.
In West Sussex Council alone, trading standards officers have received over 800 cases of scams and attempted scams since July 2016, equating to more than two a day and costing victims £383,000.
Trading standards teams at councils elsewhere have secured recent prosecutions for various scams and warned residents about sham schemes which have cost victims vast sums of money.
Warwickshire County Council, for example, was contacted by a woman who reported losing more than £30,000 to someone who contacted her via a dating website; a man who is thought to have sent more than £50,000 to fraudsters after being tricked into ‘investing’ in pink diamonds; and prosecuted a trader renting out ‘ultrasonic liposuction’ devices which he falsely claimed would enable users to lose weight without exercise or dieting, but in fact proved ineffective and gave customers electric shocks.
Redbridge Borough Council has also jailed a man and his accomplice after taking advance fees from clients for the purpose of arranging mortgages that were never provided.
Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “Heartless, money-grabbing fraudsters don’t care about the financial and emotional distress their sham schemes cause. They just want to exploit people, many of whom are elderly or vulnerable, into parting with their hard-earned money or life savings and vanish without a trace.
“Councils are receiving reports of scams every day from victims whose confidence and trust in people has been shattered, leaving them anxious and scared of being targeted and harassed again.
“Fraud not only leaves victims out of pocket, it also creates significant costs for taxpayers as elderly victims in particular often require more care and support after being scammed.
“Although scammers often target the vulnerable, anyone can be fooled by a fake businessman, scheme or rogue trader as fraudsters are always devising new ways to con people out of their savings.
“It’s important that victims don’t suffer in silence or feel embarrassed. By reporting a scam, people can help someone else avoid being a victim and help councils track down the fraudsters, bring them to justice and recover their money.
“We want to encourage people to speak out and give their families or carers the information they need to take action.”