A County Durham mother with dementia was scammed out of thousands of pounds in her final years, now her family has told her story in the hope of preventing others from falling victim.

Thea Khamis has spoken out about what happened to her mother Mary who was diagnosed with dementia in 2016. In the hope of increasing awareness of scams and the financial losses, they can cause, as part of a national campaign backed by Durham County Council.

Mrs Khamis has revealed how Mary’s last records list 101 different companies and organisations she had been sending money to. However, the daughter believes the actual number could be much higher. These came in various forms be that postal, phone or doorstep. They covered people claiming to be charities, running prize draws or catalogues, or selling medication, as well as bogus roofers.

The Northern Echo: Thea Khamis and her mum MaryThea Khamis and her mum Mary

Mary had an issue with her boiler and her daughter suggested they use her savings to get a new one. Mrs Khamis said her mother “made excuses” about the savings and it soon became apparent that her account, which had had over £10,000 in it, had been emptied to give money to scammers.

In the last five years of Mary’s life, her daughter tried to put systems in place to remind her that the scammers were only out to get her money. Call blockers were also installed, Mary was signed up to the Telephone Preference Service and scam mail returned.

However as Mary’s details had been shared by scammers, she continued to be contacted.

The Northern Echo: Thea Khamis and her mum MaryThea Khamis and her mum Mary

As Mary’s dementia developed, she became less able to cope with money unaided. Her daughter tried to stop direct debits going out to scam charities and used the power of attorney and third-party authority to give her control over her mum’s finances.

During the later stages of Mary’s life, she finally stopped giving money to scammers as her declining health meant she wasn’t able to, passed away in 2019 aged 89.

Mrs Khamis said: “I hope my mum’s story will make people aware of the numerous kinds of scam and how scammers operate, and I would encourage anyone with elderly or vulnerable relatives to speak to them about the risks. I’d also say to people who suspect they are being scammed – please speak up – there is no need to feel embarrassed.”

Scams Awareness Fortnight 2020 aims to create a network of confident, alert consumers who know what to do when they spot a scam. Organised by Citizens Advice and running until 28 June, the annual campaign is this year focusing on raising awareness of the scams that have emerged as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Joanne Waller, the council’s head of community protection, said: “It is truly awful that unscrupulous scammers seek to exploit kind and trusting, and in some cases vulnerable, people like Mary for financial gain.

“Scams Awareness Fortnight is very timely as we know that some people are more vulnerable at the moment for various reasons as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and therefore more likely to fall victim. Equally, scammers out there know this and are trying to take advantage.

“It is, therefore, crucial that we raise awareness of scams to help people avoid falling victim to them. We encourage anyone who suspects they or someone they know is being scammed to report it.”