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Fraud: Robbing the Elderly - Tonight

Helen Skelton looks into how so-called 'nanny-cams' are helping keep the elderly safer. Credit: ITV/Tonight

In Fraud: Robbing the Elderly?, reporter Helen Skelton investigates the rise in older people falling victim to theft and fraud crimes and explores the use of so-called ‘nanny-cams’; hidden cameras used to catch thieves who target the elderly.

In a survey for ITV Tonight, three quarters (75%) surveyed said they would secretly film a carer if they had suspicions about them. The poll also found:

● 24% of people had installed surveillance cameras in their homes before.

● 63% felt care institutions should have surveillance cameras in private rooms.

● 70% felt anyone with a theft or fraud conviction from the last five years shouldn’t be able to work as a carer for the elderly.

● 49% thought someone with any sort of criminal record shouldn’t be able to work as a carer for the elderly.

Our survey, conducted by OnePoll, also found 85% of those questioned felt there should be a specific law to protect the elderly, like there is for children.

In general, the perpetrators in most elderly theft cases are not strangers, but in fact known to the victim, like a friend, relative or carer.

“In the end I had cameras in three rooms,” said Jonathan, who installed surveillance equipment in his parents’ home, who were both in their 90s.

Jonathan shows surveillance footage to Tonight reporter Helen Skelton. Credit: ITV/Tonight

The footage that resulted showed carer Stephane Smith stealing earrings from a jewellery box from behind a curtain in a bedroom at the house in North Wales.

Jonathan described his feelings at what Smith had done: “We’ve allowed somebody in who’s robbed them. That was the guilt side that it was on my watch.

“I’ve always been very vigilant. But you have to put your trust out there and 99% of these other girls are lovely, except her.”

Last year the carer, Stephanie Smith, received a suspended twenty week prison sentence and community service, for stealing a two hundred pound pair of earrings.

One spyware shop in East London has noticed an increase in people buying hidden cameras disguised as everyday objects, like air fresheners or alarm clocks, in order to try to secretly film a carer.

Cameras can be hidden within everyday objects like these. Credit: ITV/Tonight

“The use of surveillance has become very popular now,” said Raj Bhan, from Lorraine Electronics.

“Now we can actually watch things from our smartphones live, or we can record as well,” he added.

A surveillance camera is allowed in a person’s house or in their own private care home room with their permission and if they cannot give consent, you need to be sure you are acting in their best interests.

The care regulator, the Care Quality Commission, recommended getting legal advice first.

The charity Action on Elder Abuse estimated there were 120,000 fraud and personal theft cases affecting over 65’s in England every year. Meanwhile, social service safeguarding reports showed 22,565 cases in 2017/18 of financial/material abuse, affecting mostly the elderly, with illnesses like dementia.

  • You can watch Fraud: Robbing the Elderly on ITV at 7.30pm on Thursday 27th June.