By Louise Walsh
Gardaí are hunting fraudsters who are believed to have driven a confused elderly woman with dementia to the bank to withdraw almost €1,000 in recent weeks.
The frail 87-year old mistakenly drew €90 initially out of her Bank of Ireland account but was immediately sent back to the cashier by the con artists to withdraw ten times that amount.
The shocking incident in Dunboyne, Co. Meath only came to light a week later when the woman's daughter, who looks after her mother's finances, checked a bank statement after becoming suspicious.
The daughter - who does not want to be named in case it would identify her mum who lives partly alone - is now appealing for neighbours to watch out for the elderly in their neighbourhoods, especially coming into the winter months.
"I took money out of my mam's account for the doctor and when I looked at the receipt, I thought the balance was a bit low.
"My husband came home from visiting her and he asked me who had power-hosed the outside footpath.
"That's what made me suspicious so I checked further and the bank teller said mam had come into the bank a week earlier and withdrew €90 euro.
"A little while later she returned, saying she had made a mistake and meant to take out €900. When the teller asked what it was for my mam told her it was for a stair lift, which we had been talking about getting.
"When I asked mam myself, she said the money was to pay the men for work around the house."
The worried daughter said her mother was unharmed in the incident and doesn't realise that she was scammed.
"She has dementia and gets easily confused. Myself and my siblings clubbed together and got her home redecorated two years ago - no work was needed on the house.
"We checked around and neighbours said they saw a shiny new van outside the house on Tuesday, September 5, but they thought nothing of it."
The family now believe the occupants of the van approached their mother with a view to charging for cleaning gutters or power-hosing outside and saw their chance when they noticed the elderly woman's fragile disposition.
She is now urging all neighbours to be vigilant around the county.
"Our neighbours are fantastic and they didn't realise what was going on but I'm asking others not to take things for granted. If they see a van outside the home of an elderly neighbour, call in to check it out or ring their family.
"I was so angry when I found out what they did to mam, that if they got all the karma I wished on them, they are in for miserable lives.
"They are scum of the earth. How they live with themselves I don't know."
Gardaí declined to comment but it is believed local CCTV footage is being looked at.
Local Fianna Fáil Cllr Damien O'Reilly appealed for anyone who may have noticed anything suspicious to contact gardaí.
"I'm absolutely outraged by this attack on a vulnerable elderly woman. It was cowardly and heartless to take advantage of the woman in this way.
"Our elderly citizens should be protected and I'd ask everyone to look out for their neighbours, especially as the nights close in," he concluded.