Karl Alexander, a 49-year-old gardener from Hyde in Greater Manchester, has been jailed for conning almost £300,000 out of 91-year-old widower, Dennis Jezzard. Alexander stole his life savings, and in a dazzlingly brazen move - he tried to sell his home out from under him. He was caught when Jezzard's neighbours grew suspicious.
The Daily Post reported that Alexander befriended the former banker in 2009, helped him out around the house in Old Colwyn in Wales, and took him on trips. He was so convincing in faking friendship that when the police first got involved, Jezzard defended his friend, and tried to throw the police out of the house.
However, Alexander took advantage of his trust, and transferred savings certificates into his own name. Some £91,000 of Jezzard's money was also 'invested' in a motor homes business set up by Alexander - which folded.
Alexander tried to get power of attorney over the elderly man, and even tried to sell his house after Jezzard moved into a care home, but was thwarted by an estate agent.
His neighbour, Gareth Jones, a former head of North Wales CID, became concerned that Alexander was exerting control over the older man. Jones was also worried that Jezzard's car had been sold for a knock-down price. In 2012, he contacted the elderly man's nephew, who discovered that documents had been taken from his uncle's safe, and called the police.
The idea of someone befriending a vulnerable person, and then using the opportunity to rip them off, is difficult to comprehend. However, there are cases hitting the courts on a regular basis.
In 2013, 42-year-old Darren Aston, an estate agent from the West Midlands, was found guilty of stealing £43,000 from an elderly woman and her friend. He befriended them, ran errands for them, and persuaded them to give him power of attorney. He then drained their savings.
A year earlier, 40-year-old Tracey Cullen, a beautician from Intake in Doncaster, was jailed for 22 months for a number of thefts. The most serious involved befriending a 79-year-old woman, offering to do her shopping, and then taking her card straight to the cashpoint. She withdrew more than £4,000 and spent it on a Caribbean cruise. While on bail for the theft she went on to befriend and deceive two more elderly people.
But one of the most high profile victims was X-Factor star Rebecca Ferguson. She had just split from her management company in 2012, and was feeling vulnerable when she was befriended by Rachel Taylor. Taylor pretended to be a qualified accountant, and offered to look after her money for her. She used the opportunity to steal £43,000 and Ferguson said: "I opened myself up to people I thought really cared about me and, when I look back, I realise I was naive, trusting and young."