Scams affecting those living with Dementia

Category: Dementia, Elderly Law, Mental Capacity

There are new scams being discovered, often too late, all the time.  This current period of anxiety for everyone (caused by the presence of the Coronavirus) is a new opportunity for scammers.  People are already anxious, and not just because they are struggling with the confines and restrictions of lockdown. Their own health or the health of a loved one is often very much on their mind.  This anxiety makes thinking rationally harder and if someone with dementia is anxious, this could be a recipe for disaster.

The Scams

These scams are all with the intention of defrauding someone. This could either through identity theft, illegally accessing their bank account or getting someone to pay them money fraudulently. Currently, the most common seem to be around tax refunds. Others include TV licensing payments, fake test kits for coronavirus, & miracle cures and vaccines. But there are countless others that we need to be mindful of.

Through my work as a Partner and Solicitor at Nash & Co Solicitors in Plymouth, and as Chair of Trustees of Memory Matters and Moments café, I offer support to people affected by dementia on a daily basis. I spend a lot of time with these wonderful people. They are often the people of Captain Tom (now Colonel Tom’s) generation. And they hate that they are a target for scammers and others taking advantage of them.

If you care for someone with dementia, particularly those still living at home, then please help them.

What kind of scams?

I’ve recently been made aware of a number of concerns that the City Council and Trading Standards both have around scams. Scammers are actually targeting old people (and particularly those with dementia) offering to sell them Coronavirus testing kits. These are only available through the NHS, and where this is appropriate, there certainly wouldn’t be a charge involved. Scammers are also offering vaccines, cures and massively overpriced protective equipment that often turns out to be pretty ineffective.

Some of the new scams include over-priced shopping or medicine collection services. If this kind of service is of interest, chemists will often deliver medications. There are also volunteer services to undertake shopping for people if they have no immediate friends or family who can help. These services won’t usually be charged for. And scammers are also offering to clean people’s homes of COVID-19 at extortionate rates. They’ll often use scare tactics. And they’ll try to build fear in the homeowners that it’s dangerous for them to live in a home that hasn’t been cleaned by the scammers. It’s truly horrendous what some people will do and how low they will stoop.

What can you do to protect your loved ones?

It’s a great idea to put a notice on the inside of the front door. This would remind them not to answer the door to someone they don’t know. Dementia UK also recommend considering a ‘community alarm, in the form of a pendant. The person with dementia can press this alarm if they feel concerned by a caller’.

If you’re concerned about scam phone calls, these can be blocked from the telephone itself. You can also block them by contacting the telephone service provider. This can also be done for withheld or unrecognised numbers.

People will need food and possibly medication brought to them or purchased for them.  They will need their utilities, but these should all be set up already.  These are their absolute basic needs. Beyond that, people can decide what is essential and this will depend on what is important for them to maintain their physical and mental well being. But please, be very cautious about paying for anything beyond these basics. This is particularly the case if you are going online, or purchasing anything from a seller that they are not familiar with.  And always be very careful who is given access to their sensitive personal and financial information too.

If in doubt…

The Police would always rather hear from you if you’re in doubt, or concerned that you or a loved one is in immediate danger.  If you’re aware of a scam having taken place, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. And if money has been lost fraudulently, contact the bank and ask them for help.

If you have any questions about caring for people with Dementia please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can find my profile here – Hilary Cragg. You can call me on 01752 827047 or email me at [email protected].

During this stressful time of COVID19, be well and safe, including safe from scams.