SCAMMERS in Sunderland are enjoying a “double-dupe recession” as they prey on Wearsiders struggling to find work or battling money problems.
The Echo can reveal opportunist con artists are targeting people in the city who have fallen on hard times, with offers of phoney jobs, training and debt scams.
Cons currently doing the rounds include:
•Tricking job seekers into paying for a phantom training course with the false promise of work on a commission basis when in fact the firm is fake.
•Luring people into accepting debt help with offers of loans which carry an upfront fee but the loan then never materialises.
•Rogues looking to profit from changes to the benefit system, particularly with the introduction to the so-called bedroom tax and localisation of council tax benefit.
Recent evidence shows that people have been ripped off by fake landlords who take deposits for properties that do not exist or are not available for rent.
Scammers have also targeted people looking to reduce their council tax bill by charging for rebanding that doesn’t happen.
According to the Office of Fair Trading almost half of Wearsiders - 48 per cent - have been targeted by scams of some kind.
Denise Irving, of Citizens Advice Sunderland, told the Echo: “Rogues are definitely cashing in on people’s job and money troubles.
“The difficult economic times have been tough for many people in Sunderland but con artists have found a way to thrive. 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.
“We are warning people to be on the look out for rogues looking to make a quick buck at their expense and reminding that scams are crimes so it is vital they are reported.”
Sunderland Mind, based in Norfolk Street, is seeing 350 people coming through its doors every month.
Of these, an estimated 200 are citing financial concerns as a major contributor to their poor state of mind.
Concerns are growing that hoaxers are only adding to this problem by plunging those already in debt into further financial anguish.
Mark Branson, 22, applied online to what he thought was a job listing site.
He was then asked to provide personal information including a social security number and bank information.
Mark became suspicious when he was asked to provide an upfront fee for joining the site and withdrew his application.