Time For A Scam Cam?

Fraudsters scammed nearly 49,000 older people in the UK last year, according to a recent BBC radio investigation. People living at home with dementia are particularly at risk. What can we do to protect them?

Is it a scam?
A trusted advisor?
Photo by lisafx via Can Stock Photo

Someone was hammering at the front door. What was up?

I vaulted downstairs, turned the key and slipped back the bolt.

– Sorry mate. You haven’t got a door-bell.

It sounded like an accusation. He wasn’t looking at me, but at the green tape still dangling from the panelling around the door frame after I made an unsuccessful attempt to fix it a couple of years back.

– We done a job in the area …

He waved his arm vaguely. The whole area, obviously.

– … so while we got the whole team here we can offer a special deal on our windows … and doors.

He gave my tape another meaningful look, then pulled a leaflet out of his shoulder-bag.

– See we got a whole range – all energy-efficient, advanced glazing like. We do custom fits – and if we get started today, while we’re here, we’ll give you hundreds of pounds off.

Lena came up behind me, happy to see we’d got a visitor.

– Hello, love.

– Hello.

– So would you like us to get started? I can only do the deal today, ‘cos we’re here.

I thought about all the work we needed to do on the house. Yes, we needed a new front door. Then there was the cellar. Gaping holes where a door and window should be. Cold and damp and liable to flooding. Maybe the window on the top floor. The whole house had been a project since we moved in.

– Well, we’re certainly going to need some work done sometime. But not today.

– The offer’s only on today.

– Yes but, we’ve got a whole lot of work to do here. I need to plan.

I stepped back and showed him the missing plaster in the hallway to emphasise the point.

– All right. Tell you what. We don’t have to start today. If you sign up with us now, then we can come back another time … next week. Deal?

– No, I’m really not going to do anything today. But if you just give me the leaflet, then I’ll know how to get hold of you when we’re ready to get quotations.

I reached out for the leaflet, but he quickly drew his hand back and hid it behind him.

– You’re not gonna sign up now?

– No, not today. But I’d like your details.

– No. If you’re not gonna start today, then you can forget the deal. It’s gone, mate. We got no time to deal with time-wasters.

That’s what I thought too. I shut the door on him and turned. Lena was still right behind me.

– Who was that?

– Oh, just some guy trying to sell us something.

– Han var fin. He was nice.

 

Clearly a scam, and not a very sophisticated one. But Lena liked our visitor and would have been happy for him to stay and chat. It’s just the same when we’re out shopping and we’re ambushed by people who want us to change our internet provider, or give them money for a bus fare, or hear the word of God. I try to hurry Lena past, but no, she wants to stop and talk to them all. She thinks they’re just being friendly.

As someone memorably put it on the BBC broadcast about scams perpetrated on older people: ‘With dementia your bullshit detector is set several notches lower.’

Lena’s not really at risk. Our front-door these days stays locked and latched to stop Lena wandering off outside when nobody’s looking, and getting lost. And since she can’t figure out the latch, when somebody comes to the front door, it has to be me who opens it. So she’s not going to be a victim of doorstep scams.

And she hasn’t been able to use a computer or the phone for several years, so scammers aren’t going to reach her that way either.

But in the early days of dementia it could easily have happened – and it does, frequently, according to the BBC 5 Live Investigates programme – Victims of Fraud. 

"Fraudsters scammed nearly 49000 older people in the UK last year - equivalent to six victims every hour of the day across the UK. The figure has almost doubled in three years, but one expert says the true number of victims was likely to be in the millions.​"

The programme explains how the perpetrators often work from a ‘suckers list’ of potential victims. Obtained from unscrupulous data-brokers, these lists will provide the personal details of the weak and the vulnerable – the elderly, the disabled, those who live alone, people who have responded to scams before. 

Dementia’s an easy target because if you’re asked to sign a contract or to donate money today, you may well have forgotten that you did the same thing yesterday. The scammers can hit you again and again.

In one instance, the BBC reports how an elderly couple, both in the early stages of dementia, had the house they were living in sold by someone who posed as an advisor from their bank. After initially visiting them on a cold call, purporting to discuss a suspicious transaction in their bank account, he then started to visit regularly. Gradually he worked his way into their confidence, also stripping money out of their account. The couple were in close contact with their children close by, but never thought to tell them about their new ‘friend’, until the dirty deed was done.

Another interviewee told how a phone scammer had persuaded her mother to spend £3500 in 10 days on ‘vitamin supplements’.

There are steps we can take to help protect vulnerable parents from these fraudsters. This article, ‘How do you avoid cold callers?’ is full of good tips. It’s illegal for a cold caller to knock on your door if you’ve made it clear they’re not welcome, so a ‘no callers’ sign outside would help. Registering with the Telephone Preference Service should stop unwanted phone-calls – although not if they come from abroad, as so many spam and scam calls do. That’s why I particularly like the idea of a machine which asks unknown phone-callers to record who they are before they get put through.

As we hear in ‘Victims of Fraud’, the banks are working on ways to tackle the problem too. And, like other organisations, they’re trying to educate us about the dangers, telling us what should raise our suspicions, what information we should never reveal to a stranger.

But if you have dementia, education’s not likely to be the answer. You may understand the lesson today, but have forgotten it tomorrow. And if someone arrives on your doorstep with a smiling face, you may be happy to see them, particularly if you’re on your own. It’s not every day that you get company. 

So what can we do to protect those we care about from the door-to-door scammers and enable them to continue living safely at home?

Maybe technology could be the answer. In fact, perhaps it already is, but I just don’t know about it. Has anyone yet invented a scam cam? What are the specs I’m looking for?

  • An audio and video recording of front-door interactions.
  • The ability for a relative to quickly review today’s interactions remotely.
  • Secure against hacking.
  • Not able to be disabled or broken by a visitor
  • Inexpensive and easy to install
Anyone?

PLEASE SHARE OUR POST

Related posts from The Care Combine

We have an army of dementia carers all fighting their battles alone. That's no way to win a war.

Alan Miles

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Fraudsters scammed nearly 49,000 older people in the UK last year, according to a recent BBC radio investigation. People living at home with dementia are particularly at risk. What can we do to protect them?

Is it a scam?
A trusted advisor?
Photo by lisafx via Can Stock Photo

Someone was hammering at the front door. What was up?

I vaulted downstairs, turned the key and slipped back the bolt.

– Sorry mate. You haven’t got a door-bell.

It sounded like an accusation. He wasn’t looking at me, but at the green tape still dangling from the panelling around the door frame after I made an unsuccessful attempt to fix it a couple of years back.

– We done a job in the area …

He waved his arm vaguely. The whole area, obviously.

– … so while we got the whole team here we can offer a special deal on our windows … and doors.

He gave my tape another meaningful look, then pulled a leaflet out of his shoulder-bag.

– See we got a whole range – all energy-efficient, advanced glazing like. We do custom fits – and if we get started today, while we’re here, we’ll give you hundreds of pounds off.

Lena came up behind me, happy to see we’d got a visitor.

– Hello, love.

– Hello.

– So would you like us to get started? I can only do the deal today, ‘cos we’re here.

I thought about all the work we needed to do on the house. Yes, we needed a new front door. Then there was the cellar. Gaping holes where a door and window should be. Cold and damp and liable to flooding. Maybe the window on the top floor. The whole house had been a project since we moved in.

– Well, we’re certainly going to need some work done sometime. But not today.

– The offer’s only on today.

– Yes but, we’ve got a whole lot of work to do here. I need to plan.

I stepped back and showed him the missing plaster in the hallway to emphasise the point.

– All right. Tell you what. We don’t have to start today. If you sign up with us now, then we can come back another time … next week. Deal?

– No, I’m really not going to do anything today. But if you just give me the leaflet, then I’ll know how to get hold of you when we’re ready to get quotations.

I reached out for the leaflet, but he quickly drew his hand back and hid it behind him.

– You’re not gonna sign up now?

– No, not today. But I’d like your details.

– No. If you’re not gonna start today, then you can forget the deal. It’s gone, mate. We got no time to deal with time-wasters.

That’s what I thought too. I shut the door on him and turned. Lena was still right behind me.

– Who was that?

– Oh, just some guy trying to sell us something.

– Han var fin. He was nice.

 

Clearly a scam, and not a very sophisticated one. But Lena liked our visitor and would have been happy for him to stay and chat. It’s just the same when we’re out shopping and we’re ambushed by people who want us to change our internet provider, or give them money for a bus fare, or hear the word of God. I try to hurry Lena past, but no, she wants to stop and talk to them all. She thinks they’re just being friendly.

As someone memorably put it on the BBC broadcast about scams perpetrated on older people: ‘With dementia your bullshit detector is set several notches lower.’

Lena’s not really at risk. Our front-door these days stays locked and latched to stop Lena wandering off outside when nobody’s looking, and getting lost. And since she can’t figure out the latch, when somebody comes to the front door, it has to be me who opens it. So she’s not going to be a victim of doorstep scams.

And she hasn’t been able to use a computer or the phone for several years, so scammers aren’t going to reach her that way either.

But in the early days of dementia it could easily have happened – and it does, frequently, according to the BBC 5 Live Investigates programme – Victims of Fraud. 

"Fraudsters scammed nearly 49000 older people in the UK last year - equivalent to six victims every hour of the day across the UK. The figure has almost doubled in three years, but one expert says the true number of victims was likely to be in the millions.​"

The programme explains how the perpetrators often work from a ‘suckers list’ of potential victims. Obtained from unscrupulous data-brokers, these lists will provide the personal details of the weak and the vulnerable – the elderly, the disabled, those who live alone, people who have responded to scams before. 

Dementia’s an easy target because if you’re asked to sign a contract or to donate money today, you may well have forgotten that you did the same thing yesterday. The scammers can hit you again and again.

In one instance, the BBC reports how an elderly couple, both in the early stages of dementia, had the house they were living in sold by someone who posed as an advisor from their bank. After initially visiting them on a cold call, purporting to discuss a suspicious transaction in their bank account, he then started to visit regularly. Gradually he worked his way into their confidence, also stripping money out of their account. The couple were in close contact with their children close by, but never thought to tell them about their new ‘friend’, until the dirty deed was done.

Another interviewee told how a phone scammer had persuaded her mother to spend £3500 in 10 days on ‘vitamin supplements’.

There are steps we can take to help protect vulnerable parents from these fraudsters. This article, ‘How do you avoid cold callers?’ is full of good tips. It’s illegal for a cold caller to knock on your door if you’ve made it clear they’re not welcome, so a ‘no callers’ sign outside would help. Registering with the Telephone Preference Service should stop unwanted phone-calls – although not if they come from abroad, as so many spam and scam calls do. That’s why I particularly like the idea of a machine which asks unknown phone-callers to record who they are before they get put through.

As we hear in ‘Victims of Fraud’, the banks are working on ways to tackle the problem too. And, like other organisations, they’re trying to educate us about the dangers, telling us what should raise our suspicions, what information we should never reveal to a stranger.

But if you have dementia, education’s not likely to be the answer. You may understand the lesson today, but have forgotten it tomorrow. And if someone arrives on your doorstep with a smiling face, you may be happy to see them, particularly if you’re on your own. It’s not every day that you get company. 

So what can we do to protect those we care about from the door-to-door scammers and enable them to continue living safely at home?

Maybe technology could be the answer. In fact, perhaps it already is, but I just don’t know about it. Has anyone yet invented a scam cam? What are the specs I’m looking for?

  • An audio and video recording of front-door interactions.
  • The ability for a relative to quickly review today’s interactions remotely.
  • Secure against hacking.
  • Not able to be disabled or broken by a visitor
  • Inexpensive and easy to install
Anyone?

PLEASE SHARE OUR POST

Related posts from The Care Combine

We have an army of dementia carers all fighting their battles alone. That's no way to win a war.

Alan Miles

Enjoying our site?

Then don't miss a post. Our weekly Monday newsletter includes a digest of all the previous week's articles.

Get exclusive content too:

Wednesdays: Carer tips
Fridays: Latest Bine updates
Join us

2 thoughts on “Time For A Scam Cam?

  1. The scamcam seems so easy that it’s hard to believe it doesn’t yet exist. Or does it?
    Maybe you should invent one and make some money selling the design. As if you had the time… but you do come up with some good ones.

    • You’d think it would exist, Åsa, wouldn’t you? But I haven’t yet found anything that meets all the specs. There are more sophisticated devices that track everything, but we’re not looking for that. Just something that monitors front-door interactions. Perhaps someone will come up with something – or see this post and invent it. One of the aims of The Care Combine, incidentally, is to identify situations where technology will help. When we have Bine Centres operating everywhere, there’ll be market opportunities for the tech companies who deliver.

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