Scams, Safety and Dementia

Award: £406,590
Timescale: three years from December 2016

Project aims

Three local authorities (East Renfrewshire, Angus and South Ayrshire) will work together to develop, pilot and evaluate a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial scams, so that they can better maintain their confidence and ability to continue living independently at home.

The project also aims to make them feel safe and protected from harm, and to reduce the current rate of financial loss and personal harm experienced as a result of scams.


  • to work with people with dementia to understand their views about what they need to lead an independent life and to feel safe and protected from harm; similarly, to capture the views of carers about what the people they care for need
  • to bring relevant organisations together to develop and deliver a package of preventive measures, including practical solutions and suitable assistive technology, and to offer people with dementia an individualised, person-centred package to safeguard them from financial exploitation (on the doorstep, by telephone, mail or online
  • to produce awareness-raising materials and a training programme for organisations working with people with dementia
  • to evaluate the pilot across the three contrasting areas and work up a good practice model which can be rolled out across Scotland and reduce public expenditure through this preventive approach
  • to seek Scottish Government recognition for the proposed framework


People with dementia benefit from early diagnosis and access to the range of post- diagnostic services including support to live in a place of their choosing within a community setting. This project supports work alongside the NHS post diagnosis package of support services.

In 2012 an East Renfrewshire working group was set up to look at the post diagnostic support package and included residents and families living with dementia. The group concluded that having support to avoid scams was a key element.

It is estimated that around 90,000 people in Scotland live with dementia. It is said that around 60-65% have a formal diagnosis; the others do not. However, Scottish Government figures up to July 2015 seem to show that just 43,409 people were recorded as having a formal dementia diagnosis in Scotland.

For the areas subject to this project the level of dementia diagnosis was 2,211 in Angus, 1,637 in East Renfrewshire and 2,363 in South Ayrshire. There will be many others living with the condition who are undiagnosed.

The national position in respect to financial harm is well illustrated by the “With Scotland” Briefing on Financial Harm (University of Stirling 2015) which states, “Financial harm has been highlighted as either the most, or second most common type of elder abuse by studies conducted internationally” further adding “Its detrimental effects, impacting both mental and physical health, are far reaching and cannot be overlooked”. The key message is “Raising awareness constitutes a core prevention strategy and an important first step for an effective response”.

This initiative aims to address this concern by implementing timely preventative interventions, combining technology with a host of simple practical solutions, to increase confidence at home for residents facing challenging circumstances due to dementia and health issues.

More Information

People living with dementia are at great risk of falling prey to scammers and carers are often very worried about how to prevent their relative becoming a victim of a scam, particularly in the early stages of dementia when a person still has capacity but may not always have sufficient understanding to exercise good judgement.

The aim of this project is to offer people with dementia an individualised, person-centred package to safeguard them from financial exploitation, on the doorstep, by telephone, by mail or online.

Each local authority area will bring together local and national organisations to develop and deliver a package of preventive measures, including practical solutions and various types of useful technology, for example, call blockers.  Call blockers screen incoming phone calls and either block any unknown or unauthorised numbers or transfer them to a nominated family member or guardian.

The scheme aims to help residents with dementia live safely and independently in their own homes without worrying about being bombarded with confusing and intimidating calls or unsolicited doorstep cold callers. 

This new initiative will also reduce the rate of financial loss and personal harm experienced as a result of scams.

If the scheme is successful, a good practice model will be developed which can be rolled out across Scotland.

Figures issued by Citizen’s Advice in 2014 showed that the most common type of scam takes place via telephone (34%), almost a quarter took place on the internet (24%), 16% came through letters and one in ten scams were via email. Other types of scam include face-to-face visits, i.e. doorstep crime.

This is a joint project between three partner agencies:

  • Angus Trading Standards services
  • South Ayrshire Trading Standards services
  • East Renfrewshire Prevention Team

All three services are provided by the respective local authorities. For more detailed information, see the separate links below for each individual authority.

Outcomes we'd like to see

Short Term Outcomes:

  • Establish the views of people with dementia on what package is suitable to protect them from financial harm and exploitation by scams and rogue trading.
  • Establish the views of people caring for people with dementia on what package is suitable to protect the person from financial harm and exploitation by scams and rogue trading.
  • Identify the partners essential for the delivery of the pilot project.
  • Raise awareness of the need for people with dementia to choose to live independently and free from the fear of falling victim to scams or doorstep crime.
  • To identify current sources of information and provide signposting and supportive materials
  • To evaluate results by combining qualitative and quantitative data.

Medium Term Outcomes:

  • Pilot a good practice model to be rolled out across Scotland.
  • Establish a training programme for those interacting with people with dementia
  • Establish a referral mechanism to identify people with dementia and break down any inter-agency barriers
  • Stop cold calls, unsolicited mail, scam mail and doorstep callers that are detrimental to the independence of people with dementia.
  • Create a protection and prevent plan, centred on the personal needs and wishes of each individual receiving a diagnosis of dementia.
  • To evaluate results by combining qualitative and quantitative data.

Long Term Outcomes:

  • To roll out a good practice model to assist a person with dementia live in a place of their choosing free from fear of being targeted by scammers and rogue traders.
  • To develop a multi-agency approach to ensure that people affected by dementia can continue to do the things that are important to them by deciding at the point of diagnosis what assistance can be put into place for the person to carry on doing the things that are important to them and how the measures can be reviewed to ensure that they still meet the person’s needs in the future.
  • To reduce reactive public expenditure using a preventative approach in line with the Christie Report.
  • Increase employability prospects for a graduate, a modern apprentice or care employability

Case study

Peter’s Story

Peter’s mother is a resident of East Renfrewshire and a recipient of their call blocker scheme and advice on dealing with cold callers.  

“Shortly over four years ago, my mother suffered a severe stroke and was also diagnosed as having vascular dementia.  After an extended stay in hospital, she was sent home with a care package to look after her.

“She made a pretty remarkable recovery and we were delighted.  There was only one major hurdle that we faced, and that was, when my mother came home, she had severe anxiety levels. Unfortunately, during the day when we weren’t there, she received numerous calls on a daily basis, from a variety of traders, from PPI people, from insurance companies and from banks.

“With the state she was in, having had the stroke and a dementia diagnosis, it ended up that she became confused and anxious – she knew that somebody had been on the phone but couldn’t remember who it was.  She wasn’t sure whether she had cancelled policies or what it was about.

My sister and I, who are my mother’s carers, had to then backtrack, phoning up banks that my mother had dealt with, and insurance companies to make sure she hadn’t cancelled anything.

“She didn’t know whether she had passed over money and we were terrified that she was going to pass on large amounts of money to potentially rogue traders.

“What transformed things for us was the introduction of the Call Blocker from the prevention team from East Renfrewshire Council, and the ‘no cold calling’ badge.

“I cannot overstate the dramatic difference this made to my mother.  We would call her up prior to this and be met with an almost hysterical woman, with her anxiety levels through the roof and just hugely anxious – to the point where we had to seriously consider whether my mother would be able to live independently.

“This changed dramatically after the call blocker and ‘no cold traders’ badge came into operation.  It ended up, we would call my mother and she was calm and she was relaxed.  This has resulted in my mother being able to live independently, on her own, for the last four years.

“It has also transformed myself and my sister’s lives.  Rather than having to deal on a daily basis with a crisis, we now have no crisis to deal with. We can track who is calling my mother, and where there is legitimate people calling, they have the option of whether to call myself or my sister – and many have done so – so we’re not blocking all calls, legitimate calls can be transferred to ourselves and quite frankly, my mother’s happy, we’re delighted and we can support her in putting her energies into making her life as pleasant as possible, rather than running about on a daily basis chasing up various insurance companies etc.

“This has made just a huge and remarkable difference to her. I doubt without this whether my mother would have been able to live independently on her own – I’m fairly convinced she wouldn’t have.  I can’t thank East Renfrewshire enough for putting this in place.” 

Additional Information

East Renfrewshire Prevention Team

Angus Trading Standards services

South Ayrshire Trading Standards services