Scams Awareness

Chris Holden, Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards  |  Published: Jun 20th 2017

July is National Scams Awareness Month.  Although Wendover is not a known hotspot for scamming the Dementia Alliance is aware of a number of recent instances, where local people living with dementia have been victims of either rogue trading or bogus prize draws. 

One elderly gentleman, living alone, was visited several times in a short space of time by a couple of men, who after helping with a bit of over-priced gardening, then proceeded to suggest that he had a problem with his roof.  Of course by this time, the gentleman trusted them, and was only too happy for them to go and take a closer look.  Fortunately a neighbour who knew that the elderly gentleman lives with dementia became suspicious, challenged them and they left the property.  She then phoned the police with her concerns.  Her actions probably saved the gentleman being defrauded. 

Chris Holden (Senior Trading Standards Officer), congratulating the neighbour stated that, ‘This is not the first time this year that Wendover residents have contacted either ourselves or our colleagues in the police with similar concerns about the targeting of vulnerable neighbours by what we call doorstep criminals.’  Mr. Holden described the repeat visits as part of a grooming process where the criminals start small, usually helping with a bit of gardening or hedge trimming.  ‘They are taking the opportunity to assess the victim, whether or not they like the company, whether or not they might keep sums of money in the house – each time they come they charge a bit more for their work -  and whether they might be easily suggestible to the big fraud, such as a roofing or patio type job.’ 

In other parts of the county similar doorstep crimes perpetrated on isolated or lonely people living with dementia have resulted in individuals losing many hundreds of thousands of pounds, notably a couple in Amersham defrauded of £900,000.  ‘Because of the vigilance of local people we are not aware of anyone in Wendover being defrauded of more than a few hundred pounds,’ said Mr. Holden. ‘Although’, he added, ‘as our experience of doorstep crime leads us to believe that only one on ten incidents is ever reported, someone somewhere in the village might be being systematically conned out of their life savings!’

Reported incidents of mail or telephone type scams are even rarer, with nationally only 1 in 20 victims ever being identified. The frauds go on out of sight, inside the home.  Trading Standards, however, are currently working with over 300 victims of telephone and postal scams including victims who have given away as much as £300,000 to criminals operating from abroad who convince them to send off regular sums with the promise of ‘guaranteed’ riches.

The type of scams range from bogus lotteries and prize draws, through catalogue and brochure scams, bank and building society frauds to perhaps the most insidious fake clairvoyant and religious scams.  Most of us see these sort of scams for what they are, and are frankly amazed that victims get persistently taken in.  But the Wendover Dementia Alliance urges people to try to see how such scams might seem to someone living with dementia or other cognitive infirmities such as depression or Parkinson’s Disease and to be both more sympathetic, but also aware that a relative or neighbour might be a victim. 

Where they become aware of a victim Trading Standards and Adult Social Care can put in both technology, such as a call blocker, and other programmes to protect the systematic loss of someone’s life savings and also reduce the isolation or loneliness that is often a root causes.  Therefore if you know a person who receives masses of post every day, perhaps is a hoarder, or their phone never stops ringing with sales type calls then they may be a victim of fraud and can been confidentially reported to: 

Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards

0300 123 2329

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