BLAENAU Gwent Council is warning people about the fraudsters preying on hard-up households throughout Scams Awareness Month .

Fraudsters are “picking the pockets” of up to four million people each year, according to new research from Citizen’s Advice.

The council’s Trading Standards team is warning that as people struggle to make ends meet they are being sized up by con artists.

Fraud offences in England and Wales rose by 25 per cent in 2013, compared to the previous year, with 207,252 cases reported to Action Fraud.

But nationally Citizen’s Advice has calculated up to four million people could be scammed each year as many scams go unreported.

Scams Awareness Month, launched on May 1, and Blaenau Gwent Trading Standards is urging people to fight back against the fraudsters.

Throughout the month, Blaenau Gwent Trading Standards officers will be visiting stores that have a Paypoint or Payzone facility where customers are able to transfer money.

Officers will be encouraging shop owners to be more vigilant and to look out for older or vulnerable customers who ask to transfer money or buy Ukash vouchers.

Blaenau Gwent Trading Standards have also joined a nationwide initiative to help the victims of scams by contacting people in the county borough whose names have appeared on lists that are shared by scammers.

The aim of the initiative is to introduce a referral system between agencies, gather intelligence on scams and victims and educate victims and potential victims.

Councillor Keith Hayden, executive member for waste management and the environment, said: “Trading Standards are working hard to prevent scammers getting away with fleecing people of their hard-earned money.

“Scammers are criminals who often target elderly people with sophisticated scams such as posing as their bank or phone company. People regularly come to us with heart-breaking stories about con artists taking their money and it’s important people know what to look out for and what they can do.

“Anyone who is unsure about someone asking for their financial details should check with someone they trust and report anything that sounds suspicious to Trading Standards on 01495 357813 or through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06.”