Thursday, 19 April 2012

"It doesn't sound right..."

an elderly neighbour told us. He had called in to ask if I could check something for him.
He was being particularly cautious because there has been a recent spate of attempts, too many of them successful, to defraud elderly people. The issue has had a fair amount of coverage in the media but not everyone reads the papers or listens to the news. He does - so he was being cautious.
The scammers are getting more and more sophisticated too. There were the "roofing specialists" with their pseudo-science and the "paint" that did more harm than good. There were the "insulation specialists" who conned the public and the government into paying for unnecessary insulation. (We had our roofing insulation checked by a firm with a good solid reputation and were told it was good for another 25 years at least.  When he was satisfied by that my father allowed a bew company that had been advertising heavily and persistently in our area to have a look. Of course ours was "in a dreadful condition and needed to be replaced immediately". My father made sure the Neighbourhood Watch Group - now defunct but still going then - knew. People were warned. )
Some of the most recent lot have been claimed to be from a government department - pay something to register and you will get a nice cheque in return. We have not been targetted but apparently they have been very convincing.
That is at the simple level. At the more complex level there are high level investment scams. Some of these have been so sophisticated that it is scarcely surprising that people have been taken in. Even those attempting to unravel the resultant mess have admitted they could have been taken in by them. It is a nasty, nasty business.  I am wary, very wary but I am aware I am not immune and that my father and others we know are not immune.We hope we can trust our financial adviser. He does not work alone. It is a fair sized company. It is well thought of. If there is an individual rogue then they are covered by insurance. We like him, just as we liked the man who retired. That is no guarantee of course, fraudsters can be apparently very likeable people. It is why I read all of the thirty-six pages he sent my father recently. I know the adviser expects me to do this.
I took our neighbour very seriously too. He is almost as old as my father and, like my father, he is still mentally alert. We went through the document together. No, it did not sound right.
        "I don't think they are trying to scam you but I think you are right and they have made a mistake," I told him.
He nodded.
        "Didn't want to make a fool of myself. I'll get on to them in the morning," he said looking reassured.
Not wanting to make fools of ourselves is, I suspect, a big part of the problem - and it is better to check before than after. It still scares me.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Cat, you are kind to spread the word. My elderly father was taken in by several less-than-honourable people in his last years, while we were trying to support him with his failing faculties - we all wanted him to stay in his house for as long as he could. First there were the gentlemen who knocked on the door to ask if he could really see the television clearly, with that lamp right next to it. (They'd peered through the windows as he was watching television one evening...). Of course, that set up a worry - oh, no, maybe I can't - and the gentlemen said, very 'kindly' that they would solve the problem for him by buying the lamp from him, for £50 - even though it was probably worth less. Oh good, thank you...

Next time I went round, no lamp. And more importantly, no Georgian mahogany lamp table either. Something my late mother had bought at auction and which she treasured.


Then there was the nasty hearing-aid salesman, masquerading as a technician, who sold my father, in his own home, forgetting to give him any info regarding cancellation and cooling off periods...£3000 worth of hearing aid that Dad could not cope with. He was not dextrous enough to cope with the management of these high-tech things. And his brain had deteriorated to the extent that he thought the salesman was a visiting vicar from Wales.

I dont understand the mind-set of those who prey on the elderly like this. The hearing aid company was linked to a trusted high street name, too - not dissimilar to something you put on your feet in cold weather. Thank heavens, after some heavy complaining, the weight of that company was suffiicent to make this greasy nasty individual change the aid to something more suitable. But the whole thing had undermined dads confidence in himself - and did not help...

catdownunder said...

Ugh Vanessa - I hate people like that. Dad was taken advantage of by one of the assistants at the phone shop. He has a mobile phone. He only uses it to call me if he is going to be late and would otherwise use it only in an extreme emergency. The rest of it is a mystery to him. He was sold an expensive plan and told that this would be the cheapest one for him. He had asked for a much cheaper plan we knew existed (as friend was on it) and was told that it was not available.
I had to go to the Communications Ombudsman to get him out of a two year plan that would have cost $2,400 and on to a plan that cost $240 plus the price of any call he might make. We would put him on a pre-paid scheme but decided it was more than he could handle. Technology is not his thing.

Rachel Fenton said...

Had a lad (19-ish) round here the other evening - clip board, logo on his shirt: our HRV system needs servicing (which it does - we got a card from the HRV company recently telling us when it was last serviced). He wanted my mobile number to call me when he was free to come and service it - would cost $200. He had no badge. I questioned him. He started to stumble over his words, his hands were shaking, his shoes were very tatty. He asked again for my mobile number. Again I said no, then he ran off.

The next day I had an "electronic" phone call asking if I had a security system - was it up to date!

Thing is, with our mail box being out by the main road, anyone can look at your post and get to know some basic details about you.

And this is me, quite able to kick some butt - but how people can live with themselves when they are cowardly enough to target vulnerable people, I don't know.

And very upsetting to hear your dad went through that, Vanessa. A close friend's father is dying the slow death of dementia and going through the same cowardly treatment.