The Aiken Department of Public Safety is investigating after a man allegedly tried to scam an elderly dementia patient into paying him $1,700 for unnecessary repairs to her home.
The incident happened at the victim's home on Evans Road on Monday, according to a report.
The victim's daughter told officers her 84-year-old mother was approached by an unknown man who said he was a contractor, the report stated. He told the victim he would clean off her roof for $30, to which she agreed.
Another man, whom the contractor said he was working for, arrived on scene and told the victim she needed repairs to her chimney and the outside of her home pressure washed, according to the report. The victim's daughter told officers her mother suffers from dementia and that the suspects were taking advantage of her by “coercing her into allowing the work to be done.”
The victim's daughter arrived on scene as the men were pressure washing the home and told them to discontinue their work, according to the report. After the daughter explained the situation regarding her mother's illness, the suspect told the 84-year-old victim the bill for their work was now $1,700 instead of $30.
They reportedly tried to have her sign a contract for the bill.
The victim's daughter paid the men $300, asked them to leave and contacted law enforcement.
As of press time on Tuesday, no arrests have been made in the case.
“They target seniors. It's become very prevalent,” said Linda Lucas, community relations director for DayBreak Adult Home Care Services. “The National Council on Aging said it's becoming the crime of the 21st century, and I think it's because there are so many seniors. You have to remember how many seniors there are in this area; this is a retirement community.”
Lucas said DayBreak often encourages family members of someone suffering from dementia to take over their loved one's household payments and finances. This is done by obtaining a power of attorney, which is written authorization to represent or act on another's behalf.
“Banks will work very closely with the family to set up these things where the family can oversee every penny that goes out from mom,” Lucas said, adding that some banks can even set up a “flagging system” to alert a caregiver if their loved one has spent a certain amount.
People suffering from dementia often sign contracts without reading them, or don't understand contract cancellations, Lucas said.
Another option is for a caregiver to have their loved one's mail delivered to their home to provide oversight over potential mail scams, Lucas said.
“Mom gets 30 pieces of mail, and all of a sudden, mom is writing checks for anything that came in the mail,” she said.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012.
He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.