senior woman's hand writing bank check

Elder financial abuse in Adelaide: warning signs & prevention

Getting old can be hard. We fight for our loved ones’ care and affection and we long for somewhere to belong. We don’t want to end up alone. And no matter how old we get, we always want to look out for our children and grandchildren because they matter to us. In this context, it’s easy to understand how aged and elderly people may fall victim to financial abuse. Unfortunately, the lies and scams of some unscrupulous family members can result in older Adelaide residents losing their savings, pension, and even their house.

Adelaide elderly are at risk

Financial abuse is the most commonly reported form of abuse by the elderly with nearly 5% of elderly people reporting some form of financial abuse – and this figure expected to double in the next 20 years, according to a report. In addition, most reported cases of financial abuse take place in the home and most often are perpetrated by a family member – a reflection perhaps that most assets owned by seniors and the aged are largely managed privately. Those who have some form of disability with decision-making are more likely to be the target of abuse and therefore, at greater risk.

Below are the most common examples of elder financial abuse:

  • Taking care of an elderly person’s house sale and ‘managing’ the sale funds, in exchange for a promise to look after them  and provide accommodation
  • Threatening or pressuring an older person to sell the house
  • Threatening or forcing an older person to sign power of attorney or wills
  • Misusing the said power of attorney for improper handling of an elderly person’s finances
  • Forcing an aged or elderly person to give out inheritance earlier
  • Incurring bills and charging it to an elderly family member

Although it’s often hard to pinpoint the start of behaviour that leads to an older person experiencing financial abuse, there are warning signs and red flags to watch out for. Here are some signs of elder financial abuse:

  • Stress, fear, and anxiety experienced by the elder abuse victim
  • Unrecognised or new set of signatures on documents or cheques
  • Suspicious withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Promises of care in exchange for money or transfer of property
  • Sudden inability of an elderly person to access their bank accounts
  • Accounts transferred to different bank or institution
  • Major changes in banking activities
  • Forging wills
  • Transfer of assets when an elderly or aged resident can no longer manage them
  • Missing jewellery, pieces of artwork, and anything of value

A sense of entitlement

The danger of elderly financial abuse is that most perpetrators think that they have exclusive rights to their parents’ assets and money. “It’s my inheritance anyway, I can definitely use it.” This kind of reasoning makes it hard for professionals or lawyers to take a case against the siblings, children or other family members who may be crossing the line. Actually, the victims themselves make it harder since they are reluctant to report abuse, especially if it concerns their children. An 80- or 90-year old elderly resident who has worked all their life building wealth ends up with no home or money in their bank account, and won’t realise it unless someone explains that the paper they signed is a transfer of title.

How can a financial planner help?

As finance professionals, we have a responsibility to protect our clients. Australia’s taskforce on Elder Financial Abuse (EFA) puts accountants on the frontline in helping elderly fight the abuse. Accountants and financial advisers are in a unique position to identify threats of abuse since they have detailed information on the elder’s financial affairs. One of our aims as ethical Adelaide financial planners is to make sure that clients are informed and in control of their financial affairs at all times.

If you think you may need help around elder financial abuse, please feel free to call Adelaide Age Care Financial Advisers on 1300 422 232 for a confidential chat.

Regards, Carmela

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