Elder financial abuse can happen to anyone at any time. Learn how to recognise the signs and equip yourself with the knowledge to minimise the risk of it happening to you.
What is elder financial abuse?
Elder financial abuse can be defined as someone you know using your funds or assets to your detriment. This could include:
- Stealing, taking or ‘borrowing’ your money without your knowledge or consent and with no intent to pay back the money.
- Forging your signature or impersonating you.
- Misleading you or forcing you to sign a document.
- Withholding or controlling your funds or preventing you from accessing your funds.
- Using your money for purposes other than what you wanted.
- Deceiving, coercing or unduly influencing you to change or sign a Will, Deed or Power of Attorney.
Who commits elder financial abuse?
Unfortunately, elder financial abuse may involve family members or it could also be an acquaintance or a stranger that has befriended you. Families may sometimes enter into informal agreements which can unintentionally cause risks of abuse. Family members can pressure you into giving them money for their own benefit or to make decisions which aren’t best for you.
Relatives or close friends may also believe that they will, or should inherit assets or finances, and therefore feel a sense of entitlement to access your funds in advance. They may also feel the need to protect their inheritance (or perceived right to an inheritance) from expenses incurred by you, even if these are necessary for your wellbeing, such as the cost of aged care.
Your abusers may begin with honest intentions but later engage in abuse triggered by certain events, such as financial stress, family conflict, gambling, drug, alcohol abuse or other addiction issues.
In any case, elder financial abuse is never acceptable. There are steps that you can take to help protect yourself and it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and act when you feel something may not be right.
What are the warning signs that I may be experiencing elder financial abuse?
It may not always be clear if you are the victim of elder financial abuse. Below are some warning signs to look out for:
- Absence of mail such as bank statements.
- Unexplained transactions on your accounts such as withdrawals.
- Being coerced into making decisions that may not benefit you, for example, early withdrawal of a policy.
- Pressure to make changes to a Will, Power of Attorney or giving some one third party access to your accounts.
- Feelings of isolation or experience of threatening behaviour.
What can I do to protect myself?
To help you protect your financial future, create a support network to help you when you may not be able to deal with your financial affairs.
Choosing people you can trust, who have your best interests at heart and the right capabilities is very important. People you can consider are:
- Friends and family
- Legal advisers
- Financial advisers
You can also take the following steps to protect yourself:
- Stay in touch with people you trust and don’t be afraid to talk about any concerns you may have.
- Learn to recognise and avoid scams.
- Regularly check account statements for any transactions you do not recognise.
- If you lend money to someone, make a written note and plan of repayment with them.
- Never sign documents you don’t understand.
- If you can, get independent and confidential legal or financial advice.
- Ask someone you trust to check that the person managing your financial affairs is doing so in your best interest.
Who can I contact if I suspect I am being taken advantage of?
There are many organisations that can support you if you think you are experiencing elder financial abuse:
|Free and confidential helpline for advice and information on elder abuse.
|1800 353 374
|Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
|A free service for anyone to raise concerns about the quality of aged care services subsidised by the government.
|1800 951 822
|Free advice on how to manage financial affairs to all Australians.
|1300 300 630
|Council on the Ageing (COTA Australia)
|Provides leadership in social policy and community information and education for all older persons in Australia.
|02 6154 9740
|Advocates for people living with all types of dementia and for their families and carers.
|1800 100 500
|Legal Aid ACT
|Free legal support to Australians across different states.
|1300 654 314
|Legal Aid NSW
|1300 888 259
|NT Legal Aid Commission
|1800 019 343
|Legal Aid Queensland
|1300 651 188
|Legal Aid Commission SA
|1300 366 424
|Legal Aid Commission TAS
|1300 366 611
|Victoria Legal Aid
|1300 793 387
|Legal Aid Western Australia
|1300 650 579