Sadly, instances of elder financial abuse are increasing and are predicted to escalate as our population ages. You may not be familiar with the crime of elder financial abuse, which is defined by Relationships Australia as:
“The illegal, mismanagement or improper use of the older person’s finances. This includes stealing money or possessions, controlling their finances without permission, threats or coercion to gain power of attorney or pressuring them for early inheritances.”
This crime is usually committed by a person or people who are trusted by the older person and it can take place over a considerable period. Anyone can be targeted, but those over the age of 50 are most at risk.
Warning signs of elder financial abuse include:
- You have not been receiving your usual mail, including your bank statements, but you have not cancelled the service.
- You feel that you have to request permission from another person to spend your own money.
- Someone is pressuring you to sign a power of attorney granting control of your bank account to them, or someone else.
- Someone is very interested in your Will and is perhaps forcing you to change it.
- If you have appointed someone as your power of attorney, you feel that they are not acting in your best interests, i.e. they are using your money for their own interests.
- Someone else has control of your bank account/s – your access card/PIN/credit cards – without your consent.
- Your signature has been forged on cheques or legal documents.
- Unexplained transfers, withdrawals or payments have appeared on your account statements; be particularly suspicious of large amounts.
- You have become aware of new investments, debts or loans in your name or are being pressured to take out such investments, debts or loans in your name.
- Your bills have not been paid, despite requesting someone to arrange this for you.
- Someone is arranging to sell or is threatening to sell your property without your permission.
- You are experiencing threatening behaviour, such as someone threatening to isolate you from your family and friends if you do not comply with their wishes.
- Someone is making you feel guilty if you do not give them money.
- You are feeling intimidated, possibly involving verbal abuse, cajoling, anger or threats.
- You no longer feel in control of your finances.
If you feel that you or your loved ones are at risk, get support
Build strong relationships with people who can help you or your loved ones. Ideally, create your support team from a mix of contacts, for example, your GP, your accountant, a friend and a family member.
If you are worried that you or your loved ones are vulnerable, seek help:
- Relationships Australia publish a list of state and territory assistance services, such as the NSW Elder Abuse Hotline 1800 628 221.
- Lifeline provides support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for those in crisis.
- gov.au publish a range of resources that can help you.
At G&C Mutual Bank, our team has been trained to help identify the warning signs of financial abuse. Our members can contact us on 1300 364 400 (8.00am – 6.00pm weekdays) to discuss any concerns with their account. We’re ready to help you.
You may find the article What is elder financial abuse? of interest.