Financial abuse can take the form of:
- misusing or stealing from the bank accounts of those in their care
- pressuring a person to sign a legal document, such as a guarantee or mortgage
- using a power of attorney in a way that is not in the interests of the person who granted it.
Pressure from family member or caregiver
Elderly people may face pressure from family members for financial support. For example, an adult child may pressure a parent to guarantee a loan or become a co-borrower on a loan using the parent’s house as security.
If someone is pressuring you to sign a bank document, or is accessing your accounts without your permission, contact your local bank branch. Staff will give you advice on how best to protect yourself and your banking affairs. In so doing, bank staff will also be alert to any unusual activity in your accounts.
Suspicions of financial abuse
If you suspect an elderly friend or relative is the subject of financial abuse, you may like to raise the subject diplomatically with that person. Some tentative questions can either allay or confirm your suspicions. You may wish to raise your concerns with a trusted family member. The Office for Seniors runs a free helpline (0800 32 668 65) that gives callers information about elder abuse and also connects them to support services.
Other types of financial abuse
Like all customers, older people can also be approached by individuals running financial scams. Fraudsters can make contact in person, by phone, email, or through the internet.
The following organisations also deal with matters affecting the elderly:
- SuperSeniors (Office for Senior Citizens)
- Age Concern
- Commission for Financial Capability (The Retirement Commissioner).
If you suspect an elderly friend or relative is the subject of financial abuse, you may like to raise the subject diplomatically with them and encourage them to contact their local bank branch.
Card's terms and conditions put loss squarely on bank
Gladys, an elderly woman, used her debit card to buy groceries at her local supermarket. Two days later, she was about to go shopping again when she discovered that her wallet, with the debit card, was missing. After searching her home, Gladys went to her local branch and reported the loss. The bank told her that $7,000 had been withdrawn at ATMs and through eftpos transactions during the previous two days, leaving her with a balance of $2,000. It said it could do nothing for her, and she should lodge a complaint with the police.CASE 2
Bank should have warned about couple's second loan
Sue and her husband Chris were in their 70s when they became involved with what they thought was a Hong Kong investment scheme. They withdrew money from their bank term deposits and transferred it via Western Union to Hong Kong. They were asked for more money to cover court fees, taxes, bank transaction fees and insurance.CASE 3
Dying wife changed access to just one account
Ravi complained to us that his bank had not carried out an instruction to add him as an account owner on all of his wife’s accounts.
Scams targeting bank customers are becoming more sophisticated and more common. Despite that, following some basic precautions will keep your money safe from scammers. If you do become the victim of a scam and complain to us, our job is to determine whether your bank is liable for the loss.
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