My dad, who was 89 at the time, received a call from someone who said he was from the police. The man said to him, “We’ve been monitoring your cards and think someone is withdrawing money from you.” What made Dad trust them was when they said “If you don’t believe this, put the phone down and call 999.”
Dad dialled 999 but the phone connection hadn’t been broken so the scammers were still on the line when he ‘called back’.
The so-called police had rung him mid-afternoon and he says they stayed on the line for hours. They told him they had spoken to me about this ‘problem’. Eventually he was convinced by them and agreed to put his bank cards in an envelope with all the cash he had, which was £80. A courier arrived at 11pm and picked up the envelope. Later that evening £200 was withdrawn from Dad’s account and the next morning another £200 was taken.
When I rang Dad the next day, he asked me if the police had been in contact with me. I said they hadn’t. Everything became clear to Dad at that point. Mentioning me was all part of the scam. I realised immediately what had happened and I cancelled Dad’s cards.
We told the police who were fine but there’s a limit to what they can do. Dad lost his £80; the banks gave Dad his money back – they were brilliant, the other bank were fine but took some persuading – though two years on I think this process would be more straightforward.
Worse than losing any money, this incident has shattered Dad’s confidence.
The impact on my father
My father has macular degeneration and is losing his sight. At the time was starting to struggle to use his bank card anyway. He had recently been diagnosed with a form of cancer so, while he was coping with his body failing and his mind slowing down, someone had come along and kicked him in the teeth.
Following the incident, Dad no longer believes in his own ability to look after himself. He doesn’t feel capable.
I now manage all of his finances and we joke that I give him ‘pocket money’. My sister does his on line shopping and he would have done this himself before. Some of his independence has gone. Dad had always worried about giving away his bank details by accident but he had been doing pretty well and them someone comes along and knocked that away from you.
I have suggest to him that he should use Alexa because of his problems with his sight, but he won’t go near it. He worries about all technology he doesn’t understand and that it’s linked to his bank card.
I think when you are young, you can put this kind of incident behind you more easily, but when you’re older and you’re feeling frailer and your faculties are falling away it’s harder. And he has more time to dwell on what happened.
This episode affected others too. My sister had rung him while he was talking to the scammer. Dad had told her he was on the other line and she couldn’t forgive herself for not asking more. My dad’s next door neighbours are police officers. They saw the courier coming at 11pm and thought it was odd. They decided Dad must have just come home after a night out and was paying the taxi. They felt terrible about not intervening.
Scammers like these target the elderly and they sound so plausible.
I want people to know that no one will keep you on the phone for hours building up a story that leads to them asking for your bank details. No one will give you another number to ring or direct you to a website. People think it’s rude to end a phone call, but if you get a call like this, just say you’re too tired and that you’ll sort it out another time. If someone phones you and tells you the call is really urgent, put the phone down and talk to someone you trust.
Dad is sensitive about other people knowing what happened. We try to rationalise it with him and say people of all ages are scammed but he thinks he is just a silly old man. No amount of persuading will convince him otherwise. How people can do this – spend hours on the phone stealing money from people; how they can sort this out in their brain and live with themselves I just don’t know.
Have you been affected by any of these issues?
This blog represents one individual’s experience; personal circumstances differ – if you have been affected by any the issues in this blog and want some advice about your own situation please contact Independent Age’s Helpline on 0800 319 6789.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age.