Plan to seize the assets of fraudsters

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The Independent Online

Ministers are considering seizing the assets of con-artists who are defrauding the public of up to £1bn a year in scams.

At the launch of Scams Awareness Month yesterday, Gerry Sutcliffe, the Consumer minister, said the Department of Trade and Industry was looking at how to make "scammers" pay for their behaviour.

The Office of Fair Trading can take civil action at the High Court to force unscrupulous companies to stop trading but the company executives still keep the money. An injunction was obtained against a pyramid selling scheme called VIP Club in December. The scheme is thought to have made £17m.

As part of Scam Awareness Month, radio adverts and 500,000 leaflets will warn the public how to spot a scam and the Government is creating a £3m network of regional local authority "scambusters".

John Fingleton, the OFT chief executive, said scams had a corrosive social effect, depriving victims of their money and their trust in society. He warned that confidence tricksters targeted all types of people, including middle-class entrepreneurs, who were persuaded to join bogus investment schemes.