Criminals are exploiting the difficult economic climate by targeting job-seekers desperate to earn an income as well as people battling money problems, Citizens Advice has warned.
The advice service said 22,000 people across England and Wales had reported scams of different types in the last year.
It revealed that scammers have begun preying on people who have fallen on hard times since the start of the recession, with offers of phoney jobs, training and debt scams.
The two main scams that have emerged are: training and job ploys (where people pay for a phantom training course with the false promise of a job only to find the firm is a fake and they don't make any money); and dangerous debt help (loans to clear debts which carry an upfront fee, but the victim never gets a loan).
Citizens Advice said that the true figure for the number of scams is far higher than 22,000 as many people do not report them. According to the Office of Fair Trading almost half of us (48%) are targeted by scams, with three million falling victim to cons costing individuals a total of £3.5 billion a year.
The advice also service said it is concerned that rogues will seek to profit from changes to the benefit system: with fake landlords taking deposits for properties that are unavailable; and fraudsters targeting people looking to reduce their council tax bill by charging for rebanding that doesn't happen.
If you think you've been scammed get in touch by leaving a comment below or emailing us on email@example.com and let us know exactly what has happened.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Scammers have never had it so good as they exploit difficult economic times. 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 misfortune.
We're seeing people who have been dealt a double blow by losing their job and then losing money while trying to find a new one."
The Trading Standards Institute's chief executive Leon Livermore added: "Day in day out trading standards officers see first hand the impact these unscrupulous fraudsters are having on often the most vulnerable in our communities and are working hard with other authorities to stop them."
Throughout May, Citizens Advice Bureaux and Trading Standards across England and Wales will be warning people how to spot potential scams and how to protect themselves.
What to do if you have been scammed
- Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
- If you've paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
- Get advice and report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 (for advice in Welsh phone 08454 04 05 05) or online advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk
Signs of a scam
- The call, letter, e-mail or text has come out of the blue.
- You've never heard of the lottery or competition they are talking about .
- You didn't buy a ticket – so can't win.
- They are asking you to send money in advance.
- They are saying you have to respond quickly, so you don't get time to think about it or ask family and friends before you decide.
- They are telling you to keep it a secret.
- They seem to be offering you something for nothing.
- If it seems too good to be true – it probably is.