Tonbridge has become one of the top targets for scam artists and con men, according to a study carried out by Citizens Advice.
The findings from the charity’s national survey revealed that the town is in the top three in the country when it comes to people who have been victims of fraud, with each one losing an alarming average of £1,447 in each case.
Among the most common scams identified were cold-callers claiming to offer phone call-blocking services, or companies offering computer virus repairs.
Residents have also taken to social media over the past month warning of a ‘Real Hustle’ style TV scam. This involved a man targeting shoppers in Sainsbury’s car park in Tonbridge claiming to be an Armani store manager seeking directions to Gatwick Airport, before offering a deal on clothing he was allegedly unable to take through customs.
Citizens Advice, which moved into its new base at Tonbridge Castle last week, took part in a UK scam awareness week with Trading Standards.
Nationally, 102 postcodes were analysed in its scam study. Tonbridge, Bournemouth and Coventry emerged as having the highest rate of cases relative to their population size.
The survey revealed there were 93 reports of fraud incidents in Tonbridge between February and June this year.
Angela Newey, Chief Executive Officer of Tonbridge Citizen’s Advice, said she was ‘very concerned’ that the town had been identified as a scam hotspot. However, she urged residents to be cautious of any cold-callers, especially if requesting payment up front for services.
She said: “It is very concerning that scams are an issue in the Tonbridge area. If anyone does have any issues, they should come to us and we will be able to help and advise them.
“Our move last week to the Gateway Services at Tonbridge Castle has gone well, and we also have a very good telephone service that people can use.”
Ms Newey added: “I think it is a question of educating people to make them aware of the issues.
“Internet scams, where you are sent a message saying there is a problem with your computer but you have to pay £100 first to fix it, are one example.
“If people are asking you for money over the phone, then you should question why they are doing that, and seek advice before you do so.”
Her colleague, Jenni Terry, Citizen’s Advice Research Campaign Coordinator, explained that residents had revealed a wide range of fraudulent activity.
She said that ‘anyone could be affected’ by scams, and described how one of the most prominent cases she was aware of locally had revolved around a cold-calling investment scam, which had defrauded an individual out of thousands through promising a return on shares that could not be cashed.