A man who responded to a sign offering free money received £5,000 in ill-gotten gains.

Blackburn magistrates heard Liam Alan Dean also received a criminal record as a result of his involvement in the benefits scam.

Dean, 29, of Lower Hollin Bank Street, Blackburn, admitted to four charges of retaining a wrongful credit. He was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work and £85 costs. The court was told the Department of Work and Pensions was recovering the money.

Carl Gaffney, prosecuting, said it may be said that Dean was “an innocent abroad.”

“It is also true he was a willing participant in something quite clearly wrong from the outset,” said Mr Gaffney.

He said Dean had been given a number to call and the person on the other end of the line took his bank details, made the claims and they split the money 50/50.

“This happened on four occasions with a total payment of more than £5,000”, added Mr Gaffney.

Damien Pickup, defending, said there had been scores of cases coming through the courts.

“These offences started doing the rounds in Blackburn and Darwen about five years ago,” said Mr Pickup. “There was even a sign near the motorway slip road in Darwen saying if you want free money dial this number."