People with dementia are being cheated out of at least £100 million, according to new research by the Alzheimer’s Society.
The charity estimates that up to 112,500 (15%) of people with dementia have been victims of financial abuse such as cold calling, scam mail or mis-selling scams. Its new report ‘Short changed: Protecting people with dementia from financial abuse’ calls for people with the condition to be better protected.
Call for Trading Standards to appoint dementia champions
The Alzheimer’s Society, supported by MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis, is calling on Trading Standards and banks to help put a stop to these scams by appointing dementia champions. The charity also wants local authorities to safeguard funding for Trading Standards in a climate of cuts.
The report reveals that 62% of carers said the person they care for had been approached by cold callers or salespeople on their doorstep, while 70% were regularly targeted by telephone cold callers. This resulted in people being cheated out of thousands of pounds and suffering stress, exhaustion and frustration.
Con artists make their victims distrustful of others
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at the Alzheimer’s Society, 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 and start the New Year with new hope.’
Steve Pye, whose 84-year-old father Stan has dementia and was scammed out of over £1,000, said: ‘It’s not just about being out of pocket. Because of these con artists, my dad now finds it very difficult to trust people. It’s also incredibly stressful for the family. When you’re caring for someone with dementia, life is tough enough without having to write letter after letter trying to get back money which is rightfully yours.’
Money management problems
The ‘Short changed’ report also looked at the problems people with dementia can face when managing their money. 76% had trouble managing their money, with the technical nature of security and lack of dementia awareness in banks found to be major problems.
People often felt uncomfortable talking about their finances, particularly with family. However, 77% agreed it was important to make plans about how to manage their money in the future. Carers also spoke of the emotional barriers they faced when taking control of their loved one’s finances.
Dementia awareness training
The Alzheimer’s Society is developing a dementia awareness training programme which will be rolled out to organisations such as banks. The charity has also published five top tips to help you plan for the future:
- Discuss your finances with your family. It’s important you plan how you want your finances to be managed if you became unable to look after them yourself.
- Set up a lasting power of attorney (LPA). This enables a person with dementia to choose someone they trust to make decisions on their behalf about things such as paying bills and collecting income once they are no longer able to take those decisions.
- Speak to your bank manager. People with dementia and their carer should talk to their bank manager as soon after a diagnosis as possible. The discussion can look at extra support that may be available as their condition progresses and ways of managing money, eg using a signature card instead of a PIN number.
- Stop junk mail and unwanted telephone calls. There are a number of ways to do this, such as signing up to the Mailing Preference Service at mpsonline.org.uk and joining the Telephone Preference Service register.
- Put a ‘no cold callers’ sign on the door. These can be obtained from the local trading standards department.