Helping people with dementia avoid being scammed

Kennedy S (2024) Helping people with dementia avoid being scammed. Journal of Dementia Care 32(3) 25-27.

Admiral Nurse Stuart Kennedy offers tips for all carers, people living with dementia and professionals, to help and empower anyone at risk or affected by scams to reduce the impact and damage they can cause.


This article is written by an Admiral Nurse and intended to support people with dementia and their families avoid being scammed and/or reduce the impact if it’s happened already.

Having a diagnosis of dementia may increase potential vulnerability to being scammed, but it’s important we avoid “victim” assumptions, and always start from the basis of assumed mental capacity.

If it involves implied urgency, unexpected contact and/or grammatical errors stop, think and check.

The methods used by scammers continue to evolve and any advice may date in time, but there are some key principles and approaches we can all follow to help safeguard everyone.

Key points

  • Scams can affect anyone, not just people living with dementia.
  • Different types of scams exist, but most are targeting money.
  • Some simple strategies can be applied to reduce the risk and the impact.
  • Admiral Nurses are dementia specialist nurses who can support and advise people living with dementia and their families to manage these situations, and to put protective measures in place.

Some simple tips

  • Beware of an unexpected call, email or text (if it’s unexpected, be cautious).
  • If it’s a call, you can hang up, find a trusted number and use that (all official organisations will be happy for you to do this).
  • If it claims to be your bank, you can always call the bank afterwards (the bank phone number is on the back of your debit card). You can also dial 159 which is a guaranteed secure connection to all banks.
  • Stop and ask someone you trust before going any further.
  • Consider and discuss with wider family LPA, managing bank accounts etc.
  • Call the Admiral Nurse Helpline and speak to a dementia specialist nurse.

Scams have become a ubiquitous, even commonplace occurrence in our lives. At the same time the scammers become increasingly devious and wily in the ways they prey on our fear or lack of awareness. If a person is duped into giving something away (usually money), that they did not intend to, and deceit has been used to bring this about, it is very likely the person has been scammed. There are so many different forms, and it is likely that many more will evolve. There are, however, some simple ideas and strategies to help anyone avoid being scammed, including those living with dementia.

Some have described people living with dementia as “sitting ducks for financial abuse”, citing failures to protect vulnerable individuals (ILCUK 2022). While having a diagnosis of dementia may increase potential vulnerability to a scam, it is in no way inevitable. It is important that we avoid assuming that every person with dementia (or indeed anyone from the disabled community) is a potential “victim”. We should also be mindful of mental capacity and not assume the person with dementia was necessarily “duped”. The Mental Capacity Act (MCA 2005) makes it clear that a person may make an “unwise decision” and be aware and willing to do so. It is important to start from the basis of assuming mental capacity and determining whether evidence exists to the contrary.

Types/methods of scam

This list may never be complete, but a few key areas can be highlighted.

Doorstep scams, email scams, telephone scams, SMS text message, online scams, relationship/romance scams, identity theft, investment scams are among the growing list, and weekly we hear of ever more creative methods. People with dementia may also be pressured into signing up for something following persistent and unsolicited phone calls or cold-call door-stepping. Families regularly contact the Admiral Nurse Helpline to discuss the worries they have about this happening and/or what to do once it has occurred.


Email has become probably the most common way potential victims are contacted. The content of these messages and how they seek to engage the victim are far too many to list.  Early methods (still in use) may claim to have large sums of money in another country which can be released to the email recipient. This is a common method of persuading people to give away personal information in the belief there is a “payday” of sorts.

It is always worth bearing in mind that “official” organisations will not generally contact people via email. DVLA, TV Licencing, HMRC etc may send emails you have sanctioned (reminders to do self-assessment, confirmation of TV licence etc), but will not request personal information in this way. Red flags are poor spelling, incorrect grammar and/or contractions such as “can’t”, “won’t” etc.

Although some emails may contain links, these should only be those you have requested (for example when you forget a password and request a link to reset this). Always be cautious of opening links in emails if you were not expecting them, as this may allow a scammer access to your device and everything on it. Good antivirus software is a worthwhile investment.

Be extremely wary of allowing someone access to a device and/or allowing downloads to that device.


This is a particularly troublesome method as the scammer can apply pressure and use techniques to create fear in a more immediate way. The scammer may try to convince you that you should provide personal details (including banking). Some may even give you a phone number to ring claiming this to be a direct number to the bank or refunds department. If in any doubt, end the call, speak to someone you trust and call the organisation concerned (bank, etc) with a number you can trust. Most importantly, do not be pressured into a fake urgency.

As Admiral Nurses we commonly recommend registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), landline and mobile via or call on 03450700707. There are also some devices that will help block nuisance calls such as Truecall. It is, however, important to mention that if you are blocking withheld numbers many hospitals use withheld numbers to contact you, so discuss this with them at any appointments. All the phone companies have dedicated departments to help with nuisance calls. The details are at the end of this article.

Text scams

This is sometimes called “smishing”. Much like emails if you were not expecting it or it suggests a sense of urgency it’s wise to be cautious. You may see phrases like “we have detected unusual activity on your account”, “you have won a free gift”, or “delivery could not be made”. Common ones have tried to impersonate official organisations (DVLA, HMRC, TV Licencing, courier companies). Much like emails no official organisation will contact you in this way. Many will attempt to impersonate courier companies claiming to have an undelivered parcel. If you are not expecting a parcel, it’s probably a scam. Either way, if unsure ring the organisation on a number you have found for them from an independent source such as a search engine.

Unsolicited mail

This may have become a less lucrative and effective method, but the potential still exists. You can stop unsolicited mail by registering with Mail Preference Service (MPS) via or by calling 02072913310. This can include mail addressed to you and unaddressed mail (newspapers, magazines, product samples etc).


It is fair to say that the one thing all scams hold in common is an attempt to access your money. By being wary in the ways mentioned you can avoid much of this, but there may be other options too.

Some have told us they now prefer to have a current account with just a small amount in and to place the remainder in savings (perhaps giving the account details to a trusted person). This means that there is a limit to how much money can be lost. Another way of doing this is by a Sibstar card (a debit card loaded with money which can be overseen by another person if you wish). This is particularly useful if you are waiting for an LPA for finances which at present can take up to 20 weeks.

There is no “one size fits all” and discussing this with family, friends, and those you trust proactively may reduce risk later on. Contacting the Admiral Nurse Helpline can help you explore these issues and put steps in place to protect.

What else?

This really is the $64,000 question. As we become wiser to scams, it is likely that scammers will evolve more devious methods. Some families who have contacted us have spoken of Facebook (other social networks exist!) scams. This can take the form of someone making an offer on something you are selling on Market Place, but offering to pay via PayPal or Fedex etc. The person may typically overpay you then ask for bank details to arrange a refund. Beware: this is probably a scam. We have also heard tragic tales of people being “catfished” too. Catfishing describes situations in which a scammer is impersonating someone else (stealing their identity) in an attempt to use a relationship/romance scam. These can involve contact over weeks or months until the scammer becomes familiar and trusted. Scammers can sometimes be very patient to get to greater rewards later.

How to piece this together

After reading the above, you’d be forgiven for a sense of genuine fear about the motives of almost everyone. Most people, however, are not out to scam you, and if in any doubt, or you are worried about being scammed you can contact the Admiral Nurse Helpline to discuss your concerns (see below). If you care for someone with dementia who may be at risk in this way our dementia specialist nurses can help you. We deal with queries around scams on an all too regular basis and can talk to you about these issues.

Finally, it’s important to stress that although dementia may increase the risk of being scammed, this is not an inevitability, and anyone can be scammed. You have the power in your hands to protect yourself.

Further information and support

BT Network Controlled Calling 0800 800 864 Download the application guide from

Virgin Media Anonymous Caller Rejection 0345 454 1111 or 150 from a Virgin phone

Sky Talk Shield 0333 759 2722

TalkTalk CallSafe 1472 from a TalkTalk landline

To stop receiving unsolicited mail that’s addressed to you, register with the free Mailing Preference Service (MPS).

020 7291 3310

To opt out of unaddressed mail delivered by Royal Mail:
0345 266 0858

To stop receiving unaddressed mail like free newspapers, magazines, catalogues, information leaflets, advertising brochures, money-off coupons, local directories and product samples, join the Direct Marketing Association UK’s Your Choice service.    020 7291 3300 choice

Citizens Advice Confidential, free and independent advice.

0800 1448848 (England)
0800 7022020 (Wales)

Crimestoppers. Independent charity, call anonymously 0800 555111.

Dementia UK Admiral Nurse Helpline: 0800 8886678
(Mon-Fri, 9am-9pm, Sat and Sun, 9am-5pm) every day except 25th December.


International Longevity Centre UK. (2022). Retail therapy: Helping people with dementia enjoy spending. Available (online) at > [Accessed 5 Dec 2023].
Mental Capacity Act 2005, [online] Available at [Accessed 5 Dec 2023].