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.
"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.