Con artists are 'targeting dementia sufferers'
- 14 December 2011
- From the section Business
Con artists are dealing "another body blow" to the most vulnerable in society who need more protection, according to a charity.
The Alzheimer's Society calculated that 15% of people with dementia have been victims of financial abuse such as cold calling, scam mail or mis-selling.
That equates to 112,500 people, who lose an average of £850 each.
A separate police report has claimed that financial abuse could lead to premature death.
"Some are so socially isolated that they continue to give money to criminals, even when they realise what is happening, just to maintain some form of human contact," the City of London Police report said.
The Alzheimer's Society has attempted to make some estimate of the extent of financial abuse of the elderly - a subject in which data has been difficult to gather in the past.
It spoke to 104 carers and 47 people with dementia, as well as focus groups with nursing staff, social workers, and other professionals.
This research suggested that 62% of carers said the person they cared for had been approached by cold callers or salespeople on the doorstep, and 70% had been targeted by telephone cold callers.
"We are merely scratching the surface of the frightening hidden depths of financial abuse," said Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at the Alzheimer's Society.
"Too often, con artists are dealing another body blow to people who already face high care costs and a society that fails to understand their needs."
Steve Pye, whose 84-year-old father Stan has dementia and was scammed out of over £1,000, said: "It is not just about being out of pocket. Because of these con artists, my dad now finds it very difficult to trust people."
The charity is putting together a training programme for financial service providers such as banks.
Before that, it is urging families to discuss money management, consider the power of attorney, speak to their local bank manager about difficulties, and stop junk mail.
The police are also looking at updating the way they treat victims of financial crime.
Mehboob Khan, of the Local Government Association, said that a lot had been done by trading standards officers to raise awareness of the issues.
"Because we know many of the victims are particularly vulnerable, we are also calling on the wider community to be aware and look out for their neighbours, friends and family," he said.
"If a resident thinks they or someone they know may have fallen victim to crimes that involve scams or rogue trading, they should contact their council trading standards service, the police, or Crimestoppers immediately."