Councils have today warned residents to be alert to criminals looking to extort money from them, as it was revealed that more than two scams and attempted scams are now being reported to authorities every day.
The LGA said that scams reported to the organisation ranged from fake online dating profiles to disability parking badge sites and even bogus diamond investment schemes.
It was also revealed that nationally, the cost of these scams to UK citizens was now soaring to £10bn a year, prompting the LGA to urge anyone affected by a scam to report it to their local authority.
The council group added that victims should not “suffer in silence” but report any scam to help raise awareness and fight fraudsters better in future.
Shockingly, in some areas cases of scams have been on the rise over the last year. In West Sussex Council, officers heard of more than 800 cases of scams since July 2016 – costing victims £383,000.
One woman in Warwickshire found herself £30,000 short after a man on a dating website convinced her to invest in ‘pink diamonds’.
And in Essex, national trading standards successfully prosecuted a man and his company who misled 102 disabled people into paying £49 for Blue Badge permits that are normally bought from councils for just £10.
“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,” said Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board.
“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.”
Cllr Blackburn emphasised that fraud not only leaves victims out of pocket, but 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,” he continued.
“We want to encourage people to speak out and give their families or carers the information they need to take action.”