Protecting those with dementia from scams

Today, 15th June, is World Elder Abuse Day – a day which aims to focus global attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of older generations. The 2017 theme underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation.

In his guest blog Paul Holland, Principal Prevention Officer with East Renfrewshire Council talks about an upcoming project to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation.


On World Elder Abuse Day it is important to recognise tackling scams and protecting older people from financial harm as a big part of promoting a good later life for all. This is something I am very much aware of in my role in The Prevention Team for East Renfrewshire Council.  I have seen the terrible consequences of older people being the victims of scams, but I’ve also seen the benefits to older people of taking relatively simple measures to protect them from nuisance calls and scammers.

Seeing the benefits to older people of protecting them from scammers made me determined to ensure that more is done throughout Scotland to protect vulnerable people from financial abuse. That’s why I am delighted to be the Co-Ordinator of a new project funded by the Life Changes Trust to work in collaboration with Angus and South Ayrshire Council, to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation. We are also looking forward to working with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project to ensure the Charity’s member groups have more information about our work, as it will benefit very many older people and not only people with dementia.

People living with dementia are at great risk of falling prey to scammers and carers are often very worried about how to prevent their relative becoming a victim of a scam, particularly in the early stages of dementia when a person still has capacity but may not always have sufficient understanding to exercise good judgement.

The aim of this project is to offer people with dementia an individualised, person-centred package to safeguard them from financial exploitation, on the doorstep, by telephone, by mail or online.

Each local authority area will bring together local and national organisations to develop and deliver a package of preventive measures, including practical solutions and various types of useful technology, for example, call blockers. Call blockers screen incoming phone calls and either block any unknown or unauthorised numbers or transfer them to a nominated family member or guardian.

It’s vital that all adults know about what can be done to protect themselves from scams, particularly older adults, as unfortunately it is often older people who are targeted, and scammers are becoming increasing sophisticated. You can find out more about our activity to stop scams on our website. This provides advice if you are worried that you, a friend or a relative may be vulnerable to scams; tired of cold callers at the door and on the phone; looking to hire reputable traders; or want to know how to keep safe and secure in the home and online.

Over the course of our project we are also looking forward to developing more advice and information for the Charity’s member groups. Working together there is a lot we can do to stop the scammers and ensure that there are fewer victims of financial abuse.

If you have been a victim of a scam or want advice about a suspicious contact telephone Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.  If in doubt check it out!

 

 

 

Scams: Let’s end the stigma and end the silence

Guest blogger Peter Kirwan, Communications Officer at Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, calls for an end to the stigma surrounding being a victim of scams.


“In the whole of the United Kingdom you are the one and only Big Winner of the Bank Cheque for 20,500.00”

“There’s over £1.4 million pounds at stake and you’re a guaranteed winner”

In the UK we lose billions every year to scams just like these with half the people living in Britain having been targeted at some point in their lives. Often scam mailers are persuasive and target the more vulnerable members of society who are added to a “suckers list” when they have responded to one scam. Once on this list, they are targeted by yet more scammers and may receive up to a hundred letters a day.

Today I want to ask you to help end the silence and the stigma around these scams.

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

End the Silence

Many of these messages tell the reader they are in line for some huge windfall (through inheritance, lottery, a get-quick-rich scheme and so on) but to claim this they must pay a fee or give bank details. Crucially they often advise the person reading them to “tell no one,” claiming that other people would be jealous or try to steal from them.

Widow Ann McCorquodale was conned and then bullied into spending £40 a week on useless vitamins from a company called Vitamail. She was told that she was guaranteed a pay out of £10,000 but to participate in the prize draw she needed to make a purchase from them. There was, of course, no prize. Over the weeks that followed she received more letters assuring her it was on its way. In total she spent £6,000.

So how did this go on for three years?

A key part of how Vitamail got away with this is that they persuaded her not to discuss the letters with friends or family. This is typical in such cases.

“I didn’t tell a soul about what was going on, not even my family, it was my secret. I felt horribly guilty.”

We need to talk with our friends and family about these scams to uncover the cases where this is going on so that what happened to Ann doesn’t happen to others. We need to end the silence because it only helps the scammers.

Stop the Stigma

When having these conversations with friends and family, it’s important to make it clear that you will not be angry or think them foolish. A lot of people targeted by such scammers feel ashamed at being “taken in” by the first scam and worry about the reaction of friends and family. This increases their isolation which is exactly what the scammers want.

““I feel so stupid and ashamed that I could have been sucked in by this scam

So that people like Ann do not become repeatedly targeted in this way we need to change the climate in which scams are discussed. The reason people like Ann feel ashamed is simple: society openly shames people like them on a regular basis.

Wherever such scams are discussed there is always a vocal minority of people who cannot believe that they would ever fall for such schemes. In their minds, whoever does deserves their fate. This leads to comments like this (and far worse) which are all too common on social media.

Social Media

We need to stand up and challenge this message everywhere we encounter it.

Further information

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland has recently produced the latest edition of our Safer Communities Safer Scotland booklet. You can download a copy here

This contains, amongst other things, information on how to stay one step ahead of scammers who may try to contact you by phone, email, post or at your doorstep. If you’d like a print copy, these are free for registered Neighbourhood Watches. Registering a Neighbourhood Watch is also free. Go to our website, click join and follow the instructions.

For more information on spotting and stopping scams

To report fraud:

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Neighbourhood Watch Scotland