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Financial Elder Abuse

There is no excuse for elder abuse

State Trustees in conjunction with Victoria Police are shedding light on a serious topic that effects older Victorians/Australians. Elder abuse is a global problem and often, can be difficult to identify, it can come in various forms including, physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. Most often, the damage is carried out by someone known and trusted by the victim, such as a family member or a friend.

Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse, and at any given time State Trustees is investigating up to 200 cases of alleged financial elder abuse. In most of these cases, a person who was in a position of trust either misused money, property or assets for their own benefit.

Actions considered to be financial abuse

Every year, State Trustees discovers instances where older people have been taken advantage of financially by those they trust the most. Financial elder abuse can come in many forms which include:

  • Spending an older person’s money on things that are not related to them.
  • Emotional intimidation, such as causing the older person to feel guilty or not providing financial support/funds.
  • Stealing of money, property or household goods.
  • Not paying bills on the older person’s behalf when they were told that it would be.
  • Misuse of a victim’s personal checks, bank cards and accounts.
  • Discovering a new name has been added to a bank card.
  • Withholding visits in return for money.
  • Misusing an ATM or credit card.
  • Taking money or property.
  • Forcing or forging an older person’s signature.
  • 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.

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.

Prevention can make a difference

Many organisations such as State Trustees are speaking out about financial elder abuse to help raise awareness and educate people about the impact of this ‘silent’ crime.

Prevention and early intervention can make a real difference in safeguarding the assets of an older person. We recommend the following actions be taken to help prevent financial elder abuse:

  • appoint a trusted person/s or an Independent Attorney, such as your Accountant, Lawyer or State Trustees
  • get independent advice
  • have an up-to-date Will
  • make loans legally binding
  • formally document living arrangements

By far the best protection is for someone to prepare an Enduring Power of Attorney for financial matters today. If, for whatever reason, a person does not want to entrust this responsibility to their family, they can choose to appoint us as their Attorney for financial matters.

Prepare your Power of Attorney

When State Trustees is granted the power to act as a Financial Attorney, we help arrange, protect and manage all the financial assets of an older person to ensure their wishes are carried out, so they don’t have to worry about the everyday details of managing their money.

We urge anyone who thinks they could be at risk of financial abuse now or in the future to take a hands on approach. As the Public Trustee for Victoria, State Trustees’ mission is to protect the vulnerable and uphold the legacy of Victorians.

There is no excuse for elder abuse. State Trustees can help. Call us today on 1300 138 672 for a confidential discussion.

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