Financial elder abuse
About financial elder abuse
Every year, State Trustees discovers instances where older people have been taken advantage of financially by those they trust the most. In many cases, we are asked to step in after much of the damage has already been done.
Financial elder abuse involves the taking or misusing of an older person’s money, property or assets by someone in a position of trust. It includes:
- misusing an ATM or credit card;
- taking money or property;
- forcing or forging an older person’s signature; and/or
- persuading them to change the terms of an existing contract, the clauses in a will or their powers of attorney through deception or undue influence.
There is an increasing number of older people in our community. It is likely that this generation will produce a significant transfer of wealth between generations.
Who is most at risk?
Due to the hidden nature of elder abuse, it is difficult to get a sense of the numbers involved.
State Trustees commissioned Monash University to conduct research to shed some light on this ‘silent crime’.
The research found that up to five per cent of Australians over 65 have experienced financial abuse.
The research also found that older women over the age of 80 are most at risk and that their own children are likely to the most common perpetrators.
Other characteristics of older people most vulnerable to financial abuse include:
- diminished capacity due to dementia and other related illnesses
- isolation and dependence on others
- reliance on others for translation, undertaking transactions and services relating to the management of their finances, particularly if they are of a culturally and linguistically diverse background
What can you do about it?
Every Victorian should be aware of the risks of financial elder abuse. Everyone should plan ahead and put mechanisms in place to protect themselves in the event that they lose their decision making capacity.
We offer the following tips to help minimise this risk:
- appoint a trusted person or independent organisation to act as your attorney for financial matters
- get professional and independent advice
- keep your will up-to-date
- make loans legally binding
- Victorian Government’s elder abuse prevention strategy
- Seniors Rights Victoria
A free service that helps to prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older Victorians.
- Office of the Public Advocate
A matter involving abuse can be referred to OPA for investigation or advocacy if it involves a person who appears to be incapable of making reasonable decisions–perhaps because of dementia–and the person may or may not need a guardian or administrator.
- Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS)
Accepts referrals from neighbours, friends or family expressing concern about an older person they know.
- Victorian Government practice guidelines
For health services and community agencies.