Helen Martin: How do elderly beat the conmen?

The elderly don't expect to be 'mugged over the phone'
The elderly don't expect to be 'mugged over the phone'
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LIFE has never been easy for the elderly but it has become a lot more difficult with technology-smart scammers who target the old and vulnerable.

While I am sorry for the anonymous 53-year-old woman from Edinburgh who lost almost £65,000 when such a scammer phoned out of the blue at 10pm claiming to be from her bank and “helped” her move her savings into a new account to protect her funds from criminals, I can’t stop myself asking how she could be so daft.

She’s almost a decade younger than me and I wouldn’t expect someone of that age and that financial acquisition to be so easily fooled.

The 92-year-old who lost £100,000 in the same scam, described as “vishing”, is in a completely different position, being 40 years older. To folk of that age, “criminals” were people who bashed you over the head and ran off with your handbag. They didn’t mug you over the phone. It would never occur to that generation, for whom so much more of day-to-day life was based on trust, that anyone but the bank would even have the ability to move their money from one account to another.

The elderly cannot be expected to keep up with the rapidly changing world and be alert to new risks, new crime tactics and the criminal potential offered by computers and the internet, let alone postal and door-step rogues who work the old-
fashioned way.

More methods of conning them out of their money are unleashed on them every day by gangs and individuals for whom the description “unscrupulous” would be a compliment. Surely it is incumbent on society to find some way of at least trying to protect the vulnerable from these guiltless dirt-bags, rather than just issuing warnings which always seem to go unheeded, are not understood, or fall into the “it’ll never happen to me” category?

We need greater awareness and acceptance of the one protection that is available, ensuring that the majority of elderly people over a certain age have someone acting as Power of Attorney or co-signatory so that their co-operation alone is not enough for someone to rip them off.

It’s hard to broach the subject, as in: “Mum, you’re not really up to making decisions about your own finances any more so let me take over.” Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. But it would be easier if Power of Attorney was something “normal” everyone had to sign up to as a result of their choosing, family discussion, their bank’s recommendation or their GP’s suggestion, and seen as a customary rite of passage rather than an unwelcome diagnosis of incapability.

For those who don’t have trusted relatives, lawyers are an alternative or, and here’s an idea, how about the banks putting something back into community by setting up their own, affordable or even free service for their customers from whom they make money by overnight investment?

Some will be horrified by that idea and say it’s “patronising” the elderly. Some proud elderly people wouldn’t be ecstatic about it either. There are bound to be legal hurdles to overcome.

But unless we are prepared to leave them at the mercy of villains, and read over and over again about how they have been cruelly preyed upon by strangers we must do something to keep them safe in this harsh modern world.

What game is Sir Stephen playing?

IF I had misgivings about Chief Constable Sir Stephen House before, I have even more now that he seems to be expressing support for Xbox and PlayStation gaming.

He says if children are inside playing on them they are not outside causing damage. But I was aghast when he suggested abusive messages on Twitter had taken the place of, and were even preferable to, graffiti on the side of a building, claiming the drop in antisocial behaviour was because people now vented their anger on social media.

An abusive message on a social network site IS antisocial behaviour. Social network “gangs” might not be out on the street but they have driven people to suicide, unlike graffiti.

Summed up, his attitude seems to be “out of sight, out of mind”. Or put another way, be as obese, unpleasant, threatening and antisocial as you like. As long as it’s behind closed doors, it’s OK.

A big blast for the Yes camp

THE US is on the brink of asking the UK to support and join in air strikes in northern Iraq, with parliament expected to debate it today and David Cameron having already said it would need MPs’ approval. I feel a referendum Yes victory coming on.

It’s depressingly obvious research

WELL, wasn’t that a surprise. Cancer patients have higher rates of depression than other people. Now there are calls for better and more effective therapies to help them.

I’ll save the country, the health service, universities and the government shed-loads of money on any more research by giving them the benefit of my wisdom.

Anyone who is suffering from any possibly terminal, chronic or debilitating condition, or who has gone through months of tests, invasive treatments or therapies, or who lives with pain, or whose illness, be it cancer or anything else, means they cannot work to support their family, is going to be prone to depression. I expect my Nobel nomination will arrive any day now.