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HomeNewsPrevalence of older people being scammed in Barnet emerges

Prevalence of older people being scammed in Barnet emerges

A Barnet Council health and wellbeing board discussed the rising trend of older people being scammed and its effects, including isolation, health issues and premature death.

Fiona Bateman, chair of a London-based safeguarding adults board, told local NHS and council healthcare leaders yesterday (Thursday 9th) her committee had seen 210 people lose a total of £250,000 this year, and most of the targets were aged 65 and over.

Although not isolated to Barnet, local examples were discussed.

Dr Nikesh Dattani, the interim clinical lead for Barnet on the NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board (ICB) said he’d seen four victims of scams come into his Barnet-based general practice surgery.

He said: “I’ve seen a huge increase in patients being scammed. The newest scam is care agencies coming in, small private agencies, befriending patients caring for them for about a month or two and then drawing money out of their accounts or getting names on their wills and estates.

“We’ve seen four patients in the last two years in my practice that this happened to and it’s very sad, because they’re targeting people who have no next of kin or family so they’re lonely.”

Dr Dattani said he’d also seen an increase in people “knocking at doors” and “taking them to the bank” but was relieved some banks flagged the large cash withdrawals.

He suggested to chief executive of Age UK Barnet, Helen Newman, the charity host daytime events at GP surgeries and integrate more with the primary care system as it was a place those aged 65 and over “felt safe”.

He continued: “I wonder if coming to general practice and educating and stopping these patients being targeted is possible because they trust us and know the environment is safe.”

He added that once scammed a lot of these patients would “stop leaving the house” and were “too scared to go anywhere”.

Helen welcomed the idea and added the charity was “working closely” with some of the banks in Barnet, explaining they had recently visited a Barclays in Edgware to discuss this issue and were trying to work with pharmacies in the borough too.

She said Age UK had evidence that within a year of being scammed those who were 65 and over were “more likely to die or be in a care home”.

Helen added the charity was running a ‘scams awareness project’ nationally, which had recently been extended another two years.

She said: “Scams have a huge impact, a hidden impact even if the victim wasn’t isolated before, they very quickly can become so.”

She explained the project also aimed to help older people gain digital inclusion but acknowledged the risk of scams.

Helen added the charity wanted to show it wasn’t “too scary to go online and learn and and understand” and that they were holding pop ups around the borough to educate people.