Beware family money-grabbers

Beware family money-grabbers

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Elder abuse takes many forms including financial abuse. Photo: Greg Newington

Elder abuse takes many forms including financial abuse. Photo: Greg Newington

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ELDER abuse: it is insidious and so often invisible. But when it comes to financial abuse, there are some red flags that should act as a warning.

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ELDER abuse: it is insidious and so often invisible. But when it comes to financial abuse, there are some red flags that should act as a warning.

The Financial Ombudsman Service’s Approach to Financial Elder Abuse report outlines warning signs for financial service providers, friends and family to be aware of.

Financial abuse is deemed as conduct that involves intimidation, deceit, coercion, emotional manipulation, physical or psychological abuse, undue influence or empty promises.

“Although cognitive capacity can increase the risk of financial abuse, vulnerability may be increased when an older person has reduced mobility, vision or hearing, or has any physical dependence on another person for care or assistance with tasks including banking,” the report says. “Financial abuse can occur even when a person has the capacity to make a banking decision.”

The report says abusers are most likely relatives and caregivers. “Less commonly, they are opportunistic strangers who ‘befriend’ the elderly person or who make contact through a scam.”

In 2015, the Australian Bankers Association estimated that about 150,000 Australians over 65 were subject to some form of financial abuse.

  • The Financial Ombudsman Service provides independent dispute resolution for consumers and financial services providers. Freecall 1800-367-287, www.fos.org.au

Together making change

AN IMPRESSIVE line-up of Australian and international speakers will gather in Sydney in February for the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference.

Titled Together making change, the conference is hosted by the Seniors Rights Service.

Speakers will include Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson, International Federation on Ageing secretary- general Dr Jane Barratt, social commentator, writer and lecturer Jane Caro, retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, and International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse secretary general Susan Somers.

Discussion groups will look at human rights and elder rights – what they are and the relationship between the two; elder abuse and policing; and why local responses are important to international processes.

Other sessions will look at preventing sexual abuse of older women; preventing abuse in aged care and in Indigenous communities; elder abuse and understaffing in residential aged care settings; identifying abuse in failed family accommodation arrangements; and older LGBTI people’s experiences of abuse and their prevention strategies.

The World Health Organisation estimates one in six older people have experienced abuse in the past year. In Australia, it is estimated to affect at least one in 20 people, but with little to no research, the true extent is unknown. It takes many forms, including financial, psychological, neglect and physical. The most common abuse reported is financial.

Signs that point to someone being abused

Red flags that an older person may be being financially abused:

  • A lack of food, clothing or utilities when they can afford them
  • Recent and new acquaintances who may take up residence with the person
  • Mail that does not appear to be arriving
  • Services paid for but not received
  • The person becomes fearful they could be evicted or institutionalised if money is not given to their caregiver
  • The person appears uncared for, or the home is unkempt when arrangements have been made for providing personal care or home maintenance services.

Potential red flags to financial service providers include the elderly person engaging in unusual, erratic or uncharacteristic financial activity; being accompanied by a new acquaintance to make a large or unusual withdrawal of cash; not knowing about or understanding recent transactions; not being allowed to speak for themselves, or the other party doing all the talking; indications that mail, such as account statements, is no longer being delivered to their home.

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