An elderly gran living alone with dementia was conned out of almost $70,000 after cruel fraudsters posing as tradies targeted her, repeatedly offering to carry out work on her Sunshine Coast garden.
Joyce still lives independently despite being diagnosed with dementia earlier this year, so when the men knocked on her door offering their services as tree loppers, Joyce believed it to be an offer of “fair work for fair payment”.
However, the 89-year-old struggles with short-term memory loss, a factor which the crooks took advantage of, meaning that when they turned up on her doorstep demanding payment for the work, she forgot she had already handed over thousands of dollars.
Appearing on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair on Friday, Joyce’s son Mark Pascoe revealed he knew that something was wrong after obtaining copies of his mum’s bank accounts and cheque stubs. But when the concerned son confronted her about the missing cash, his mother could sadly not remember what she had paid for.
He described the scam as a “deliberate attempt to defraud” his mother, adding: “I don’t know how they persuaded mum to do that. There was no paperwork, no business cards, no invoices, nothing like that.
Joyce said she was “very angry” about the actions of the fraudsters, having handed over a total of 19 cheques, totalling $69,460, for work that was mostly never carried out.
The smallest single sum Joyce paid was $1,500, while the largest cheque she handed over was for payment of more than $8,000.
“Towards the end there was cheques issued on a Friday, a Saturday, a Sunday and a Monday,” Mark added.
Geoff Rowe, CEO of ADA Australia, said the case was a clear example of elder abuse and urged people to report similar instances to the authorities.
“It fits the description of elder abuse very well,” Rowe said. ” You’ve got a vulnerable person who’s been taken advantage of, who’s been charged for services that are way outside the charge for that service.
“There are people out there who can help. It isn’t something that people should sit in silence.”
The case has been reported to police however, due to the fact that Joyce cannot recall the names of the men and willingly handed over the cheques, there is little officers can do.
Mark added: “I think the words fraud, deception and inducement are all words that cover this situation.”
Bart Wills, from River City Trees, told the program: “A reputable company would not be going door to door, trying to source work that way.”
“$70,000 could buy you quite a lot of tree work,” he added. “I mean, that would be in the realms of undertaking a civil job or a large commercial job.”