Essex Trading Standards is alerting just under 3,000 people whose contact details have been discovered on a so-called “suckers list” used by scammers.
The list, which was given to Trading Standards by another county, is passed between fraudsters who use the names and addresses to con people out of money.
As well as a list of about 2,700 names and addresses of potentially vulnerable residents, staff were also given about 200 completed forms with cheques, cash, postal orders, stamps and credit card details.
The money was attached to prize draw applications and orders for confectionery special offers.
The forms were found in a PO Box used by known scammers.
Roger Walters, Essex County Council cabinet member for trading standards, said: “Unfortunately we know that this list is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Residents who respond to scams often will not tell family, friends or neighbours.
“This is partly because it almost becomes an obsession.
“It is difficult to persuade someone who has been responding for years that the prize draw, the scam lottery, the ‘today-only’ offer, the vouchers, the promise of a holiday or whatever else is not real.
“Residents should never respond to mailings relating to prize draws, lotteries, or other products or services which requests personal information, or money for administration fees.”
Essex Trading Standards will now return all the money to the people who sent it, and contact those on the list, with advice about how to avoid scams.
Staff will also work with partners such as the adult social care team if there are any known vulnerable people named on the list.
Anyone who is concerned can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.