Dr Julian Lewis: I congratulate my hon. Friend [Julian Knight] on the excellent case he is making about this very important subject. From personal experience, I know that some scammers concentrate on people who are beginning to suffer from short-term memory loss. Will he explain to what extent that is a feature of this phenomenon? If it is, as I suspect, a very significant feature, does it not highlight the importance of people who are beginning to lose their faculties trying, whenever possible, to give power of attorney to reliable relatives so that they are not vulnerable to being taken advantage of in this way?
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[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sarah Newton): ... Scams can have a devastating impact, particularly on the most vulnerable people in society. Mass marketing frauds can affect any one of us, at any time. ... We know that older people are more at risk. The National Trading Standards scams team says that the typical person it provides support to is 74 and living alone. That is why I welcome the work of Bournemouth University and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute to investigate the impacts of scams on older people. Their report on financial scamming earlier this year set out clear recommendations for action by the Government, by charities and by private institutions such as banks. As much of the debate today is focusing on the report’s recommendations, and I will address them directly.
The first recommendation was for all agencies, including banks, to recognise their duty of care to those with dementia and to take measures to protect them. The second was to strengthen rules on data protection to reduce the risk of vulnerable people ending up on so-called suckers lists used by criminals to target their scams. The third was to introduce safeguards at banks and building societies to prevent those who feel at risk of scams from losing large amounts of money.]
Dr Lewis: i thank the Minister for the interest she has taken in this issue. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to get a bank to take action unless someone has already given power of attorney, as I said in an earlier intervention. When this happened to someone very close to me and I told the bank concerned that I needed to be tipped off if there were any unusual withdrawals, nothing really happened until a particularly alert cashier, on her own initiative, did that. After five years, I eventually got success: the fraudster was forced to repay all the money and to pay the costs of the case. Therefore, will the Minister do everything possible to persuade banks, if a power of attorney is not in place, to have procedures in place if a worried close relative asks them to monitor irregular or unusual withdrawals and let them know?
[Sarah Newton: ... I will come on to address the wider point: what more banks and building societies can do to protect their vulnerable customers. ... the Government-funded national trading standards scams team is working with the British Bankers Association, the Building Society Association and others to produce a new national banking protocol for doorstep crime and other scam issues discovered at branch level. The Financial Conduct Authority is building on this. Its ageing population strategy will consider how older consumers engage in financial services and make best use of the products and services they use. The FCA intends to release a regulatory strategy and recommendations by 2017.]