'The elderly are at risk from opportunists' says Dr Alan Billings

In 1900 you would be lucky if you lived to see your 60th birthday.

Monday, 30th September 2019, 12:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 5:15 pm
People are living longer - and are more vulnerable for that reason

Today, we would feel cheated if we didn’t get to enjoy a long retirement after decades of working.

But there is a downside to living longer and it is becoming a growing issue for the police as well as other public services.

As we get older, more and more of us are going to find ourselves troubled by forms of dementia – and this is leading to some serious crime and non-crime matters.

We may already be aware of some of the crimes, particularly fraud.

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For instance, I recently came across the case of an elderly woman, who was suffering from dementia, and who had been persuaded by somebody claiming to be a ‘financial advisor’ to sign an equity release form.

This would have transferred a substantial sum of money from her mortgage company into her personal bank account.

We can guess what the ‘financial advisor’ was going to do next, can’t we?

By the time the police became involved, the woman herself had no memory of the advisor phoning, or of his coming to the house with documents for her to sign.

Many people are vulnerable in this way, and many are waiting to take advantage of them.

And it all begins with what is a seemingly innocuous phone call from someone who says they ‘just want to help.’

I learnt of another elderly dementia sufferer who is blind, goes out very little, lives alone and has few friends.

She is bombarded with calls by fraudsters on a daily basis who claim to be from BT or one of the utility companies.

It gets her down to the point where she is quite suicidal.

This has led me to give some funding to police officers who deal with this type of fraud regularly so that they can purchase and install units on the phones of vulnerable people in their communities will only let through calls from people they want to have contact with and block the rest.

But the unit notes the calls and enables the police to build intelligence nationally of this type of fraud and where it is coming from.

Fraudsters target the vulnerable. Some of today’s vulnerabilities are a consequence of what we would all want – long life.

So we need to think about whether anyone we know is like the two women I mention above and may need help.

And, hopefully, one day someone might do the same for us, because this type of vulnerability could happen to any of us.