Press Release Ref : 4479
Press Release - Thu, 15 Dec 2011

Council saves pensioner from losing house to con artists

The plight of an 83-year-old man who was conned out of thousands of pounds, and was on the verge of losing his home, has prompted a timely warning from Croydon Council.

The warning coincides with a report from national charity the Alzheimer's Society, revealing that people with dementia are being cheated out of at least £100m.

The charity estimates that up to 112,500 (15% of) people with dementia have been victims of such financial abuse as cold calling, scam mail, or mis-selling.

Mr A, from Croydon, fell victim to scammers from abroad. Over a number of years, the heartless fraudsters bled dry his savings account and convinced him to part with his pensions income each month.

And it was only the intervention of the council's trading standards and vulnerable adults teams that prevented him signing over the deeds to his house.

The case came to light when Mr A's bank became concerned about repeated withdrawals from his account. Trading standards officers investigated and found that he was the victim of a number of overseas-based scams.

Croydon's director of public safety, Tony Brooks, said: "This case should act as a warning to everybody that they must not hand over money or bank details on the vague promise of a big cash windfall.

"Mr A was almost addicted to responding to such scams and it was proving difficult to convince him that he was the victim of fraud.

"He was convinced that he was a would-be winner and was refusing help. The council's adult services department had become involved and was keen to prevent further abuse."

Eventually, Mr A agreed to allow trading standards officers to intervene. A telephone filtering device was installed and, over only three weeks, 95 calls from known scammers were blocked.

Mr Brooks said: "The tone of many of these messages was very persuasive, and, in some cases, aggressive and harassing."

Additionally, Mr A's post was redirected to a remote mail box, run by trading standards officers, who sorted his mail on a daily basis. More than 40 scam letters were removed, and legitimate post delivered to Mr A.

Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety, said: "This is a truly heartbreaking case which has seen a vulnerable old man ruthlessly conned by fraudsters who had no compunction in taking everything he owned.

"But, in a terrific example of joined-up cooperation, our trading standards team, adult services and local banks have acted quickly to save this man from what would have been a devastating loss - that of his home.

"Unfortunately, because the scammers aren't based in this country, a prosecution is unlikely, but, as a result of this operation, the team has obtained details of another British bank account belonging to a 91-year-old man from Cumbria whose account was being raided by fraudsters.

"His family was hitherto unaware of the problem, but he's now being safeguarded and protected - a great result for the council's teams."

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