It’s sad but true that criminals often target the most vulnerable members of society. So perhaps it’s no surprise that people with dementia are high on the list of ruthless scammers, intent on stealing their money.
Scammers can be extremely convincing and it’s not only people with dementia who get caught out. Each year, around 5 million people in the UK over 65 become victims – and that’s only the ones who report it. Experts believe around 95 per cent of victims don’t report it, because they feel embarrassed or ashamed that they were duped.
If your loved one with dementia still lives independently you’ll want to do everything you can to keep them safe, but, as the scammers employ increasingly sophisticated methods, this can be quite difficult to do. Simply picking up the phone to a smooth-talking stranger might be all it takes. Once they’ve given over their personal details (name, address, date of birth, passwords, account numbers) the fraudster will quickly start draining their bank account.
Here’s what you can do to protect them
Someone from the bank calls…
Just hang up
If their dementia is still quite mild, remind them regularly that they don’t have to talk to someone they don’t know on the phone. You could try sticking a note next to the phone reminding them to ‘just hang up!’ if they don’t know the caller or think they’re asking too many questions.
How much is too much? Any personal details, including date of birth or your passport number is too much information. No legitimate organisation will ask you for this sort of detail over the phone.
The Telephone Preference Service is a free service through which you can opt out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls (including charities).. Go here to register http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/number_type.html But stay alert: Once you’ve registered your number it can take around 28 days for the calls to stop completely.
If you want to register a mobile phone, just text 85095 or go here for more information http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/tps_text.html
For total reassurance, you might want to consider buying a fairly simple device called a call blocker. A call blocker will block all incoming calls except the numbers you chose, so you don’t have to worry about phone scams anymore.
Did you know? 80 per cent of phone scam victims are over 55
Hire a PA!
It’s not as expensive as you might think to hire a telephone concierge service which will screen all your loved one’s calls and connect them with family and friends whenever they pick up their phone and ask. These services operate for 24 hours a day so there’s always someone on hand.
These fraudsters can be charming, polite and persuasive. Before you know it, you’ve agreed to them clearing your guttering, tarmacking your drive or coming into your home to inspect your gas meter.
If their dementia is mild, try watching this video together, made by Age UK. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/scams-fraud/doorstep-scams/ It has lots of practical advice about keeping scammers out of your home by following this SCAMS step by step guide:
Stop – don’t do anything on the spot
Check – ask to see ID
Ask – someone for a second opinion
Mine – keep your personal details (including bank cards and pin numbers) to yourself
Share – with neighbours and friends. Warn others so they don’t fall victim either.
Press the alarm
A personal alarm service could provide extra protection for the person you care about and warn off doorstep fraudsters. If someone calls at their home and they can’t rid of them, or they just feel a bit unsettled, they can simply press an alarm button (warn around their neck as a pendant) and speak instantly to a professional, friendly person who has had dementia training and knows how to help.
Been scammed? 2 useful numbers:
REPORT IT – if the person you love has been scammed call 0300 123 2040. Your information might save someone else or help the police to find them.
TAKE ACTION – if you think the bank or building society was at fault and should reimburse the person you care about, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman. Call 0800 023 4567. But be warned, banks aren’t obliged to do anything if scammers talked someone into giving away cash or personal details.
Is it time to register your LPA?
Protect the person you love from future financial abuse by registering your Lasting Power of Attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian.