Heartless crooks cash in as scams cost £3.5bn

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More than 22,000 people reported scams to the Citizens Advice service in the last year, the charity reported this week. Meanwhile the Office of Fair Trading says that almost half of us are targeted by scams, with 3 million people falling victim to cons. The tricksters relieve people of £3.5bn a year.

As more people struggle with the Coalition cutbacks and job losses, heartless crooks are cashing in with offers of phoney jobs, training or debt scams.

"Scammers have never had it so good as they exploit difficult economic times," warned Citizens Advice chief Gillian Guy. "For most people the recession has been really tough, but it's a different story for rogues and tricksters as they've cashed in on other people's misfortunes."

Scams which have emerged during the recession include persuading unsuspecting job-seekers to pay for a phantom training course with the false promise of a job or working on a commission basis. There's also the dodgy loan offer which simply involves taking an upfront fee from desperate people and then not helping them at all.

Citizens Advice also warned that rogues will seek to profit from changes to the benefits system, particularly with the introduction of the so-called bedroom tax and localisation of council tax benefit.

May is Scams Awareness Month, and if you think you've been scammed, please report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.