Financial Abuse in Old Age: Better Awareness can Reduce Risk of Vulnerability
The elderly are probably more susceptible to financial frauds than others. Awareness of how fraudsters work enables you to stay away, or protect an elderly you know, from such frauds.
Frailty of mind and body resulting from advancement of age can make elderly people vulnerable to financial abuse. Fraudsters are often people well-known to, and trusted by, the victims. If you are an elderly yourself or have elderly relatives or friends, become aware of how financial abuse can happen to take suitable action.
Characteristics of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse involves unethical use of money of an elderly person. Access to finances could be gained in a variety of ways including threat, stealth or theft. Abusers are mostly trusted people, e.g. family, friends, neighbours, etc., who have an advantage of information; this could be a family attorney or financial advisor with access to the victimÔÇÖs financial information; a medical service provider who knows about the victimÔÇÖs frail health and finances; or a trusted family member or friend with inside information about victimÔÇÖs bank accounts, inheritance, etc.
How the Elderly can Become Victims
Fraudsters swindle money out of the elderly in a number of ways, including:
- Attractive advertisements promising high returns on investments
- Fake calls invoking a sense of danger in the elderly for people closer to them
- Promise of household services such as indoor repairs and renovation, for cheaper costs
- Theft of online identity details such as online banking passwords, credit card number, etc.
- Collection of money towards fraudulent claims of charities and calamity relief funds
- Unauthorised use of victimÔÇÖs ATM cards and bank accounts to access money (especially by people close to the victim)
- Diversion of victimÔÇÖs money towards personal use through misuse of legal instruments such as Power of Attorney, issued voluntarily by the victim
- Holding access to victimÔÇÖs financial assets by issuing threats of bodily harm or putting emotional pressure
Identifying a Victim of Abuse
You can help an elderly in your family or in your neighbourhood before it is too late. Act quickly if you encounter any of these warning signs in the elderly:
- Uncharacteristic behaviour of the elderly person
- Extreme dependence on another person (caregiver/ attendant/ family member) to make financial decisions
- Disparity in the financial background and the lifestyle of the elderlyÔÇö the person may be reluctant to spend even if he or she could well-afford it
Other warning signs that you could heed to, if you have corresponding information, include:
- Possession of expensive gifts frequently by a caretaker, apparently given by the elderl
- Accumulation of unpaid bills in the name of the elderly
- Frequent withdrawals from the elderly personÔÇÖs bank account
- Sudden changes in will, especially if it involves inclusion of a new member such as a caretaker
Whether you are a victim or want to support a victim of elderly financial abuse, it is important that you report the case of fraud to relevant authorities in your area. It also helps to be aware of financial measures you can take to prevent such frauds in the first place.
WeÔÇÖll come to you very soon with an article on preventive measures!