Stranger abuse is very real. You may hear shocking stories in the media about criminals who target individuals with dementia.
by Claire Kendall, Milton Keynes Trading Standards
These terrible abusers, befriend sufferers of dementia in order to defraud them out of their money. The worst stories are those where the ‘befriender’ goes as far as getting into a long-term romantic arrangement with the victim. Their aim is to benefit financially from the individual’s property, income, and belongings.
Befrienders or groomers are targetting people with dementia to abuse them. They use the phone, or on email, and do it even in person. This is a growing problem.
Look for the Signs
Typically, in person, the befriender will start by offering to help the person. They often pretend to be care workers or other trusted professionals. They may build a relationship with someone with dementia who is particularly lonely. Having gained their trust over time, they may be able to get the person to hand over financial information or money or valuables, The victim may even give them authority over their finances. This could be in the form of power of attorney. Alternatively, they could arrange an appointeeship, which enables the befriender to collect benefits or pensions.
When a Risk Becomes a Reality
This sad situation came true for one poor woman when a man convinced her to give him power of attorney. He had groomed the lady and her husband over an extended period. The lady lost her husband and, taking advantage of her vulnerability, the befriender moved into her house. He moved her into one single room. Although he collected her pension, he would not buy her any necessities or give her any of her money.
Eventually, a sensible person realised what was going on and referred the matter to the police. The local safeguarding team got involved. Luckily, they helped the woman and she then received the help she needed. The man was prevented from knowing where she was and would not be able to continue with his crimes.
Not every story has such a good outcome.
The Alzheimers Society has written more on the subject of financial abuse here. If you know a vulnerable person who could be at risk read
If you are concerned that stranger abuse may be happening to someone you know please:
- contact the safeguarding team at your local Council
- or report the matter to the police.