Simon Read: We have to find a way to stop unscrupulous rogues from exploiting vulnerable older people

 

My eye was caught by a shocking news story this week involving an older person being tricked out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

An 88-year-old suffering from dementia was persuaded to sell his home for almost half-price by an estate agent who seized a chance to make a quick buck.

The victim was Owen Hill, who lived in upmarket St John's Wood in north London. He had responded to one of those dodgy letters estate agents force through our letterboxes claiming that buyers are interested in our home.

When the estate agent asked him how much he wanted to sell his mews house for, Mr Hill, who has since died, said £1m as he had no real idea of the value of it.

The estate agent did, of course, and got his property developer brother-in-law to offer £1m there and then over the phone, which Mr Hill accepted.

In fact the house was worth almost twice as much and the two men clearly hoped to trouser a massive profit on the deal. Their plan only failed when Mr Hill told neighbours about the sale.

They knew the real value of the property and called in lawyers to stop the deal being completed. When the house was sold after Mr Hill's death last year, it went for £1.8m.

It turns out that the move is well known in estate agent circles. Insiders say that dodgy agents will ask a seller how much they want for a property and, if it is markedly below the market price, arrange to buy it there and then.

We expect habitual criminals to be always on the hunt for the chance to make these sorts of cons. But what makes a previously law-abiding person – as far as I know – turn to crime? The story centres on the fact that the estate agent was handed an opportunity to exploit an older, seemingly alone person and took it.

The agent had been invited into his victim's home. In short he was a trusted individual. Betraying that trust is despicable. The penalty for doing so should be extremely harsh.

Interestingly it was the actions of neighbours which helped bring the problem to light. It's easy for all of us to forget at times about older people who live nearby but keeping regular contact – or popping in for a chat – can not only help to ease their loneliness but may also ensure they avoid becoming a financial victim.

While I was still pondering these thoughts, a letter coincidentally arrived from a reader headed "More ways to cheat gullible oldies!"

In the letter, 80-year-old widow DC told me how she was recently almost twice cheated out of thousands of pounds by smooth-talking salesmen.

The first "told me my solar panels were out of date and needed repairing," she wrote. "I believed him and he left with a deposit cheque for £1,737.50."

Luckily her brother learnt of the sale and pointed out that, at 80, DC probably wouldn't live long enough to benefit from the long-term returns that solar panels generate. They acted quickly enough to cancel the cheque and "to no surprise the salesman hasn't been back in touch!"

Another salesman was "equally suave", according to DC, "and left with a cheque for £2,450, the cost of setting up a trust on my property so the local authority couldn't claim the sales proceeds should I go into a care home".

Filled with doubts after he left, DC contacted her solicitor who told her such a trust wouldn't be accepted by the local authority. In short it was a total waste of money. After a short letter, the cheque was returned.

Thanks for writing in, DC. I'm glad that in both cases you were able to get your money back. But may your experience serve as a lesson for others.

The more we share the stories of scammers, the more we can help each other learn about their techniques. And thus armed with such knowledge, we may be able to avoid falling into the clutches of despicable conmen so easily.

s.read@independent.co.uk

Twitter: @simonnread

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - City of London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

    £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

    Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

    Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen