There’s been no shortage of reports on physical and mental abuse cases on the rise in Australia since the start of COVID-19. Recently, along with these alarming factors comes more concerning news with reports elder financial abuse is on the rise.
As economic conditions worsen during the recession, older people are at greater risk of being financially abused and often by their own family members. As their older children are running into economically troubled times, more people are turning to their parent’s bank accounts to pay off debts.
Figures reported from the Australian Banking Association show that payments on 643,000 loans, worth around $200 billion, have been deferred since the lockdowns.
In the USA, between 2013 and 2017, according to a report conducted by the U.S Consumer Protection Bureau, people over the age of 70 lost an average of over $41,000 due to elder financial exploitation.
With Uniting Care reporting their helpline in Queensland has risen over 15 per cent with calls on elder abuse since the start of the pandemic.
Often children with ‘early inheritance syndrome’ may feel a sense of entitlement to their parents’ assets. Consequently, they can seek ways for their parents to give them money. It’s illegal to forge a signature on legal documents or pressure someone into signing financial documents or a will.
What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse occurs when someone manipulates your financial decisions without your consent or steals your money without you knowing. It typically occurs in a family, and sadly is often down by an adult child of the family and often alongside other forms of abuse such as physical abuse and emotional abuse.
Often the victim can be left feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable and depressed and not knowing who to turn to for help. Older people are more susceptible because people usually take advantage of them if they don’t have solid understandings of their financial statements. They often leave financial decisions to other family members who can easily take advantage of them.
How to detect financial abuse?
Often, it can be subtle over long periods, so it can be hard to detect. However, if you suspect someone has been financially abused, here are some signs to look for:
- They control all access to your money
- They restrict your access to your accounts and cash
- They deny you access to phone or internet
- They refuse to contribute to shared costs in living arrangements
- They provide you only a small allowance to spend
- They use your money without your consent
- They cancel your existing bank accounts and start new joint ones
- They pressure you to take out a loan or sign legal documents
- They pressure to change your will
- They pressure you to appoint them as power of attorney
- They make you feel guilty if you don’t give them money
- They hurt or punish you for not giving them money
- They belittle you or make you feel stupid about your spending
How to get help and support for financial abuse
There are several organisations you can contact for support and who will advise you on how to report a suspected financial abuse situation, including:
Help protect yourself from financial abuse by:
- Learning to avoid financial scams
- Regularly checking bank and credit card statements for suspicious transactions
- Opening your own mail
- Storing documents account logins and passwords in a safe and secure place
- If you lend money to someone, putting it in writing and making a plan with them for repayment
- Never signing documents, you don’t understand
- Where possible, getting independent and confidential legal or financial advice
- Asking someone, you trust to check that the person who manages your money is doing it in your best interests
For more information on your rights in a financial abuse situation, or if you suspect an elderly member of your community is being financially abused, contact us at Bale Bosher Lawyers. Call us today for a consultation.
Article by Phil Brogan