GOVERNMENTS across Australia have been called on to urgently tackle elder financial abuse.
The call from the Australian Banking Association follows the release of new YouGov research that shows almost six in 10 people worry that someone they know will be a victim of elder financial abuse.
The banking association has joined forces with Bauer Media to launch the Stop Elder Financial Abuse campaign, which wants governments to establish:
POWER of attorney laws which are the same across the country and protect people from this abuse;
A NATIONAL power of attorney register to check if documents are legitimate and current; and
SOMEWHERE to report abuse in each state that can investigate and act.
It is estimated that about one in 10 older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year, with the prevalence of neglect possibly higher.
"The growing problem of elder financial abuse in our community is an uncomfortable truth that every Australian should be aware of," said Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh.
"Bank staff have told me stories of attempting to intervene in situations where they see money drained out of the accounts of pensioners, often for items they are not using such as holidays or expensive jewellery, but the victim is unwilling or unable to report what is really happening."
National Seniors Australia chief executive John McCallum said his organisation supported moves "to get rid of the chaos of various powers of attorney across the states".
He also called for better legal support for bank staff.
"Banking staff often see first-hand older Australians being taken advantage of by trusted family, friends and carers," he said.
At the National Elder Abuse Conference in Brisbane in July, Professor McCallum told delegates that financial abusers were being given a "free run" while Australia waits for standardised powers of attorney and the creation of a national register.
"Banks are training staff to help them pick up the signals of financial abuse, but a determined abuser won't be deterred by one knockback - they'll simply move along to another branch or bank," he told the conference.
"What we need, as a matter of urgency, is a national safety net for the most vulnerable."
Seniors Rights Service chief executive Russell Westacott said the overwhelming majority of cases his organisation saw involved elder financial abuse.
"Every year we see 650 presentations of people experiencing elder abuse, which means every day our doors are open we see at least two or three people," he said.
"Of these, most people report financial abuse and they carry the shame that it has been perpetrated, most often, by a son, daughter or grandchild."
You can sign a petition seeking to have the power of attorney laws changed HERE
Download the Australian Banking Association's fact sheet on financial abuse and how to protect yourself HERE