Con artists are reviving old tricks to target vulnerable people who are struggling on tight budgets, according to the BBC.
It reports that retro scams such as doorstep traders selling fake goods are making a comeback, this time using a digital spin in an attempt to convince consumers of their authenticity.
Trading standards has received reports of door-to-door sellers pedalling designer watches for £50 and using websites to back up their claims of big savings – yet the products were found to be counterfeit.
Officials predict an upsurge in this and many others types of fraud as con artists seek to profit from changes to the benefit system, particularly with the introduction to the so-called bedroom tax and localisation of council tax benefit.
Figures reveal over 22,000 reports of scams were made to the Citizens Advice service in England and Wales over the last 12 months, yet the bureau says many more fail to report scams as they are ashamed about getting ripped off.
In fact data from the Office of Fair Trading found 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.
During the recession, research from Citizens Advice revealed opportunistic con artists are targeting people who have fallen on hard times with offers of phoney jobs, training and debt scams.
People have also been ripped off by fake landlords who take deposits for properties that don't exist or aren't available for rent, and rogues have targeted people looking to reduce their council tax bill by charging for re-banding that doesn't happen.
"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," says Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy.
"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."
Consumers are urged to be extra vigilant and wary of any house visits, calls, letters, emails or texts that arrive out of the blue. Sellers that put the pressure on to make a quick decision or request money to be sent in advance should always be treated with caution.
If in doubt, ask for their credentials first so you can check them out online or by asking friends and family – reluctance to give out details is a major warning sign that you are dealing with a fraudster.
Under the doorstep selling regulations, door-to-door sellers of products and services worth over £35 must advise you in writing that you have the right to cancel within seven days. This applies whether you are visited with or without an appointment, and whether the sales contract is agreed verbally or in writing. Failure to provide a valid 'Notice of the right to cancel' is a criminal offence.
Consumers are also advised to use their common sense, remembering that it is impossible to win a lottery or competition that you haven't entered and that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
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