Dementia patients swindled out of 100m by con artists and rogue traders

Vulnerable people with dementia are being swindled out of 100million by scam merchants, mis-selling and rogue traders, claims a leading charity.

The scale of financial abuse is laid bare by the Alzheimer’s Society, which found some victims were being callously and regularly targeted.

At least 15 per cent – one in six – people with dementia including Alzheimer’s have been cheated out of their cash, it says.

Vulnerable: Charity The Alzheimer

Vulnerable: Charity The Alzheimer”s Society has found that one in six elderly people with forms of dementia have been cheated out of money (posed by model)

This means up to 112,500 people living with dementia are subject to ‘financial abuse’ as a result of cold calling, scam mail and mis-selling.

A new report by the charity found almost two-thirds of carers said they knew of approaches to the person with dementia by unexpected salespeople on their doorstep, while 70 per cent were being pestered by telephone sellers.

The charity estimates the financial abuse amounts to more than 100million based on its snapshot survey of 150 carers and people with dementia.

Some people have lost thousands to rogue builders, or through scams where PIN numbers have been misused to access their bank accounts.

The charity is calling on Trading Standards and banks to improve protection for people with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes said the report was the tip of the iceberg, as many people are frightened to reveal their losses.

He said ‘We are merely scratching the surface of the frightening hidden depths of financial abuse.

‘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.

“It’s only by working together with banks, local authorities, and of course the general public that we can turn this around.’

Scratching the surface: Jeremy Hughes said that the figures were just the tip of the iceberg as many of those affected were too frightened to reveal their losses

Scratching the surface: Jeremy Hughes said that the figures were just the tip of the iceberg as many of those affected were too frightened to reveal their losses

Martin Lewis, founder of Moneysavingexpert who wrote the foreword for the report, said ‘The scale of this problem is huge. It’s deplorable that people are prepared to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

‘What’s more, the true amount of money lost is likely to be much higher as financial abuse often goes unreported. Society must help protect people with dementia – something must be done.’

The report also found three-quarters of patients have encountered difficulties when managing their money.

Its estimate of financial abuse comes from Office of Fair Trading figures showing 850 on average is lost when people are scammed.

The report recommends that family members talk about finances with the person with dementia and, where necessary, set up a lasting power of attorney.

It also suggests meeting with local bank managers, putting a ‘no cold callers’ sign on their front doors and signing up to the Mailing Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service register.

Mehboob Khan, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said ‘People who carry out this kind of fraud have no morals and will not think twice about targeting the most vulnerable members of society. Fraudsters are known to take advantage of any situation. If they can make money from it, then they will give it a go.

’Whether it’s cold calling, scam mail, or mis-selling goods, exploiting vulnerable residents who are already struggling to manage their money simply won’t be tolerated by councils.

‘Our trading standards teams across the county are working hard to stop rogue trading and put right some of the stress, exhaustion and frustration these crimes can cause.

‘A great deal of work has also been done to raise awareness of this as a problem. 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.

‘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.