Scam victims urged to overcome embarrassment and report suspects
A bogus faith healer, a letting agent who duped tenants out of more than £220,000 and two conmen who carried out shoddy repairs were among successful scam-related prosecutions last month alone.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is urging people to report all suspected scams to help tackle the £9.7 billion annual cost of fraud to UK citizens.
The LGA said more than five million people in the UK were victims of scams last year, but warned this was likely to be "the tip of the iceberg" as only 5% are reported because of embarrassment or victims simply being unaware they had been deceived.
Recent scams investigated by local authorities included bogus bailiffs demanding fictitious debts, fraudsters issuing fake parking tickets by posing as council officials and rogue companies offering to rerate people's homes to achieve lower council tax bandings.
Last month alone, a bogus faith healer who defrauded several women of around £145,000 with a story about using his fees to pay for potions and to sacrifice crocodiles was jailed for seven and a half years in a case brought by Birmingham City Council.
A letting agent who scammed more than 60 tenants and landlords out of more than £220,000 of rents and deposits was jailed for four and a half years following an investigation by Barnet Council.
Two cold-calling conmen who duped around 80 customers out of a total of £291,000 for shoddy housing repair work were given suspended jail sentences and a rogue trader from Gloucestershire who targeted churches, schools and charities in a car park white line painting scam was ordered to pay back more than £150,000 and jailed for 16 months.
The LGA said local authorities were helping victims of scams get their money back from fraudsters through Proceeds of Crime hearings, promoting "call blockers" for unwanted phone calls and setting up cold calling free zones.
LGA safe and stronger communities board chairman Simon Blackburn said: "Victims of fraud can lose thousands of pounds and feel anxious and scared due to being harassed by people every day.
"It also creates significant costs for taxpayers as elderly victims in particular often require more care and support after they have been scammed.
"Trading Standards teams see at first-hand the devastation but victims shouldn't suffer in silence or feel embarrassed. By reporting a scam, people can help someone else avoid being a victim.
"National Scam Awareness Month is about helping people realise that help is available from councils and their partner agencies. We want to encourage people to speak out and give their families or carers the information they need to take action."
People should report scams, rogue traders or uninvited doorstep callers to Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06.