ILLEGAL scrap metal collectors advertising their services on Facebook are making thousands of pounds from the unwanted cars and goods taken from people’s homes.

One Wiltshire scrap collector currently under investigation is believed to have made more than £100,000 from his trades.

But for others, the rewards are not worth the risks.

They include a Wiltshire tradesman prosecuted this week for seven scrap deals. Daniel Wells, 29, of Keepers Road, Devizes, pleaded guilty to dealing scrap without a licence.

Each load earned him between £14 and £28 at the scrap yard.

But Wells, who told Swindon magistrates he did not know he needed scrap collector and waste carrier licences, was fined £400 and told to pay £350 costs to Wiltshire Council. “It wasn’t really worth me doing it,” said Wells. “That’s why I stopped.”

Swindon Magistrates’ Court was told by the council’s lawyer, Anthony Johnson, illegal scrap metal dealing was “relatively prevalent in this locality”. He added: “There are a couple of incidents where the sums involved are over £110,000 in a two-year period. There’s money to be made.”

Following the case, Wiltshire Council denied illegal scrap metal dealing was a growing problem, but said well-publicised prosecutions had raised awareness of the issues.

Bridget Wayman, , cabinet member for waste at the council, had stern words for those tempted to collect scrap fridges and cars without the relevant licences: “We don’t tolerate illegal scrap dealers in our county.

“We catch them, take them to court, and win convictions that cost them considerable fines. Our message is simple: this dishonest trade belongs on the scrapheap.”

Facebook and other marketplace websites had made it easier for rogue scrap dealers to advertise their services to a wider audience.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: “It has resulted in a large increase in the numbers of illegal traders.

“Residents and businesses are advised to conduct background checks before using anyone who advertises on social media. These checks should include all relevant valid licenses.”

Council officers regularly conduct stop-and-search operations with Wiltshire Police in a bid to tackle the illegal scrap collectors, he added. Trading without a three-year scrap collector’s licence, which costs £424.50, can see the guilty trader fined up to £5,000.

Wiltshire Council has issued 14 current scrap collector licences and 26 site licences to those taking scrap from a specific site.

Anyone who suspects a scrap metal dealer is trading illegally can report them to Wiltshire Council or Swindon Borough Council online.

Q&A with Wiltshire Council…

Why do you need a scrap metal collectors’ or dealers’ licence?

Under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 (SMDA) a scrap metal dealer operating from a premises needs a scrap metal dealer's site licence from the local authority.

A site licence will allow you to operate a site and collect any scrap relevant to that site.

A scrap metal collector’s licence allows you to collect scrap only within the authority area that it was issued.

You must apply for collector’s licenses from separate authorities if you wish to operate in more than one council area. In addition to this licence requirement, sites and collectors must have a Waste Carrier’s Licence issued by the Environment Agency (this is required when applying for a licence - this is one of several elements which are required under the SMDA when processing applications).

Is scrap metal dealing a growing problem in Wiltshire and, if so, why?

No, in the Wiltshire Council area it is not a growing problem. Publicised prosecutions have raised the awareness of the excellent enforcement work which officers conduct in Wiltshire to apprehend unlicensed collectors.

Are there associated problems with fly-tipping?

In general, those who carry scrap for resale do not fly tip this material. The common link here is that a Waste Carriers Licence must be obtained to carry scrap metal (as well as holding a valid scrap metal dealer’s licence). In addition, it is a legal requirement to hold a valid waste carriers licence if you are transporting waste.

What are the penalties for illegal scrap dealing?

Unlicensed scrap metal dealers who buy and sell scrap metal for cash face £5,000 fine and the law is designed to stamp out metal theft. The bottom line here is they are breaking the law. The legislation tightens the net around rogue dealers who are not licensed and wilfully purchase stolen metal.