While all of us may be vulnerable to any type of abuse as we grow older, financial abuse is a particular issue among the elderly and individuals amid their retirement.
But what types of abuse may your parents face, and how can you spot and safeguard against it? Let’s find out!
What is Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse can include a broad range of conduct, from overcharging someone for a product or service and stealing funds directly from their wallet to committing large-scale fraud that targets significant amounts of money.
The most common example is overcharging, which may occur when a rogue tradesperson preys on elderly and seemingly vulnerable customers. In this case, the fraudster may request a huge sum upfront and then simply refuse to complete the project or charge a large amount for substandard work.
More serious and rarer examples may involve isolating individuals and seizing control of their assets through power of attorney, which may be granted following coercion or the use of a forged signature. Fraudsters may also target your aged parents with investment schemes, which are designed to steal their money in large and lump sum quantities.
How Can it be Spotted?
Of course, the signs of financial abuse may vary depending on the nature of the deception being deployed.
Broadly speaking, however, there are a few universal red flags to keep in mind. For example, if you’re elderly relative is making increased withdrawals from the bank or transferring money in huge quantities online, they may be being coerced.
Similarly, if bills are going underpaid or their rent (or mortgage payment) is overdue, there may be a cash shortfall that could be a result of financial abuse.
According to legal specialist Julia Abrey from Withers Worldwide, isolation of the individual from family is another red flag. In this instance, the victim may also take steps to modify their will to include the fraudster or be willing to hand over the power of attorney as they have no other counsel to rely on.
What Steps to Take to Safeguard Your Elderly Parents?
The question that remains, of course, is what steps can you take to safeguard your elderly parents against the risk of financial abuse? Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
- #1. Maintain Open Lines of Communication: If your parent is struggling and becoming more isolated, you must maintain open lines of communication. This enables you to raise your concerns and try to offer actionable advice, which can be acted upon if your relative is vulnerable but retails their capacity. Be sure to get legal advice too if you believe that fraud is being committed, while also alerting such instances to Action Fraud.
- #2. Recommend an Independent Power of Attorney: If your loved one is vulnerable andpotentially being manipulated by a sibling or child, the last thing you’ll want to do is badger them and confuse them even further. Instead, try recommending that they consult with an independent power of attorney, who can always assume objective control of their assets and act in their best interests. This can provide a much-needed layer of protection against financial fraud.
- #3. Collate Evidence of Wrong-Doing: To challenge anyone who commits fraud and demonstrable financial abuse against your loved one, you’ll need to create evidence and a paper trail to prove your case. This can include evidence of increased withdrawals or financial mishandling, and the key is to build a large and irrefutable body of evidence before confronting an individual or speaking to your loved one.