A NORTH-EAST citizens advice bureau is warning householders to be vigilant with fraudsters preying on more and more hard-up families each year.
May is Scams Awareness Month and Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is urging people to fight back.
Fraud offences rose by 25 per cent in England and Wales in 2013, compared to the previous year.
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More than 207,500 cases were reported to Action Fraud, but Citizens Advice nationally has calculated that as many as four million people could be affected each year, as many scams go unreported.
People are just as likely to be conned over the phone and via text messages as they are through emails and websites. New analysis reveals:
• Over a third of scams (34 per cent) were over the phone;
• Almost a quarter of scams (24 per cent) were through visits to a website;
• 16 per cent were letter or fax scams and one in ten were through emails.
Darlington CAB says people should watch out for non-secure websites that ask for financial details.
Counterfeit cashier cheques, fraudulent lenders offering loans to get hold of personal details, dating scams, ticket cons and computer hacking were amongst commonly reported scams.
Online shopping and auction fraud was the biggest single fraud type with almost 40,000 recorded cases.
Darlington CAB chief executive Neeraj Sharma said: “Scams come in all shapes and sizes and can leave people hundreds or thousands of pounds worse off.
“Fake flats, phoney offers of work or training and bogus websites are ripping people off.
“Throughout May we will be helping people in Darlington spot and report scams.
“We are advising people to speak to family and friends to make sure they are aware of some of the warning signs of a scam to stop them being duped.
“If something appears too good to be true, it probably is.”
Citizens Advice national chief executive Gillian Guy added: “Scammers are picking the pockets of millions of innocent people.
“People who are already struggling to put food on the table, let alone save money day-to-day, are being fleeced of their hard-earned cash.
“It is disgraceful that scammers are often targeting elderly people with sophisticated scams such as posing as their bank or phone company.”
If you think you have been scammed, you can report it to Action Fraud on 0300-123-2040.
For more advice and information, call Citizens Advice on 08454-040-506 or visit adviceguide.org.uk