Ali’s Story: Still counting the hidden costs of harrowing scam on my elderly Dad

Ali spent the days leading up to Christmas visiting her elderly father in hospital. Ray is living with Parkinson’s disease and his health is in a slow but steady decline. He suddenly suffered an acute illness just before the holidays and Ali was trying to get him home in time for Christmas Day.

But Ali is especially anxious about her Dad’s physical and mental wellbeing. Ray was the victim of a vicious scam that deliberately targeted a kind, infirmed and partially sighted man. At first Ali was relieved the criminals just took her Dad’s money and he wasn’t physically harmed. Now, she believes her Dad’s health was badly impacted and family and friends still feel the devastating effects.

Although my Dad’s health has levelled since the Christmas episode, he will be prone to ‘falling off a cliff’ every now and then as his Parkinson’s worsens. I know his health will never return so I’ve temporarily given up work to start caring for him more intensely. My Mum also needs support, as she is at home and caring for my Dad full time and she has increasingly struggled to cope since Dad was robbed. The emotional and physical impact of caring for a vulnerable parent has really hit home.

Every day Dad used to go for a short walk along the same route with familiar landmarks. This routine not only got him outdoors, but it was also a crucial part of his Parkinson’s therapy as it kept him mobile and independent. Mum and I were working at the time, but we were both reassured that Dad remained confident, positive and enjoying life. But we didn’t know that a criminal gang was watching him, day in and day out, and planning a vile crime.

One day, while out on his walk, Dad was approached by a woman speaking in broken English and looking distressed. He couldn’t really make out what was wrong but, being a kind person, he immediately wanted to try and help. Suddenly a man appeared out of nowhere and asked what was happening. Dad replied that he wasn’t sure although the woman was waving a lottery ticket and speaking in agitated tones.

The man, who we now know was another member of the gang, explained that the woman’s lottery ticket was worth a lot of money but she couldn’t cash it because she wasn’t a UK resident. She was offering the ticket to my Dad in return for cash that she needed to get back to her home overseas. The man took the ruse further by making a charade of looking the ticket numbers up on his phone to prove to Dad that the ticket was valid.

Somewhat relieved that this man seemed to have a handle on things, Dad suggested he should front up the money and help the woman out. Sensing that they were losing their victim, the man convinced Dad that they should work together to solve her problems amid reassurances that the lottery ticket would still go to just my Dad. At this point Dad started to think about how he could use the money to pay off my tuition fee loans and generally help his family.

When Dad told the pair that he needed to leave and go home to get his medication, the man became much more persistent and told my Dad they would drive him back to his house and help him with his medicine. The man never stopped talking on the journey or in the house, driving home the message that woman really needed the help of such a kind gentleman. He said that if Dad gave the woman the money, then he would match it and her problems really would be over. He suggested Dad handover tens of thousands of pounds

Dad was a bit taken aback, mostly because he couldn’t withdraw that much money in one go from his bank. But the man already had a plan to take my Dad to his various banks and withdraw a few thousand pounds in cash at each branch. And he did exactly that. He was careful not to drive Dad to his usual branch where the cashiers knew him and might get suspicious, while grooming him to say the cash was needed for emergency house repairs if anyone at the bank queried the withdrawals.

After Dad had withdrawn all the cash, the pair suggested they all go to ‘celebrate’ in a local cafe. They both made their excuses to go to the toilet and that was the last Dad saw of them. The next thing I know is Dad phoning me at work in despair and repeating “they’ve taken everything”. Although the police were called, these criminals were never found and the money never recovered.

Our lives were turned upside down and although this happened some time ago, we are all still feeling the effects ripple through our lives and family. In the immediate aftermath I had to replace any important documents that these people might have seen and photographed to use in further scams against my Dad. Although it took a lot of time and effort to replace things like passports, I just remained grateful that they hadn’t been violent and my Dad suffered no physical harm.

But now I believe that my Dad was physically, emotionally and mentally harmed and the whole episode really took a toll on what health he had left. He never went for his daily outings again. He was too scared and this has really impacted badly on his mobility that was already impaired by the Parkinson’s. Mum’s anxiety really heightened and she became obsessed with house security, locking then both in because she was convinced these people would return.

She had a third party mandate put on my Dad’s accounts, which he was really unhappy about because it signalled a loss of his identity and independence. And the logistics were very difficult to manage for someone who has very poor mobility, as both my parents had to be in the bank at the same time to sign all the papers. The mental and physical effort of visiting the bank, a stark reminder of the crime, really took it out of him.

Crimes against people who are elderly, frail and vulnerable are abhorrent. At the time I didn’t realise the long term impact it would have on all our lives and that it would reach well beyond the stolen money. The ripples continue to spread in our family and across our social lives. As for my Dad, he became isolated and no longer interacts with the neighbours. He mistrusts everyone, even his family, and any pleasure he had in life was sucked away. It’s horrid.

Photo by Serhat Beyazkaya on Unsplash