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Independent living

Scams and financial abuse

Every year people lose billions of pounds to scammers and con artists using postal, telephone and online scams. Vulnerable adults can also be the victims of financial abuse where money is taken by relatives, friends or carers without their knowledge or permission.

Some people may be especially vulnerable, and may be targeted if they:

  • are elderly
  • live alone with no family nearby
  • have dementia
  • have mental health problems.

There are signs which may indicate that someone is being scammed or abused, such as:

  • an increase in post – once someone replies to one postal scam they will usually start receiving lots more; some people have received 30-100 letters every day
  • changes in spending – someone replying to scams or being financially abused may drastically change their spending habits; withdrawing large sums of money or writing lots of cheques
  • having lots of new items they don’t need – some scams require the victim to buy lots of products, such as vitamins or jewellery, to qualify for a promised cash prize.

If you concerned that you, a family member or someone you care for is being scammed or abused there is help available.

EasyRead information on scams

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) – the CAB website has lots of useful information about common scams, including how to spot them and report them. There is also specific information for vulnerable people.

Police – if you believe someone is financially abusing you, or a friend or relative, contact the Police by calling 101. Contact Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 to report fraud and internet financial crime.

Devon County Council – call 0345 155 1015 and we can advise you, or put you in touch with our Safeguarding Adults officers who can investigate financial abuse concerns for vulnerable adults.

Age UK – Age UK has a factsheet about protecting yourself from financial abuse and keeping your money safe at

If you, your friend or relative has a key worker or carer tell them about any concerns you may have about scamming or financial abuse. They will discuss the risks with you and look at ways of improving the situation. If there is a clear risk of harm they will raise the issue with their line manager and make a referral to the Safeguarding Adults Team.

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