MEDIA RELEASE: Seniors Rights Victoria warns on financial abuse of seniors

Media Release | 28 April 2020

Seniors Rights Victoria today warned of the potential increase of elder abuse as a result of the economic and unemployment impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Jenny Blakey, the Manager of Seniors Rights Victoria, said significant economic and emotional pressures on families who did not have funds to pay for their rent, mortgages or regular bills could heighten the risk of elder financial abuse of older people and the broader community.

Ms Blakey said financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of a person’s property, finances and other assets without their informed consent or where consent is obtained by fraud or manipulation.

“On experience, this usually occurs between an older person and a family member but can also occur with carers or friends. The older person may not have the capacity or be empowered to make a decision which protects their assets or financial security.

“In many cases older people can be influenced by their family, friends and carers in negotiations or actions that are detrimental to the older person’s immediate or long-term interest without any independent oversight.”    

Examples of common financial elder abuse include: 

  • A family member taking a loan with a promise of repayment but not paying the money back
  • Taking money or using an older person’s banking and credit card without consent
  • Pressuring an older person to make changes to a will or other legal documents
  • Sale of any property or assets without authority or consent
  • Forced transfers of property.

Ms Blakey said the protection of the financial or personal interests of older people is vital because they may become homeless, in debt, lose money to pay for future aged care and result in a reduced pension.

“Dealing with financial elder abuse can be complicated when there is no independent advice to the older person. Individuals within the family may have different agendas and seek to gain control of the financial outcomes to their benefits to the detriment of the older person.

“This type of situation can place the older parent under great emotional pressure and cause increased anxiety, mental pressure and impact on their health and wellbeing.”  

Ms Blakey said older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families.

Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice, education and specialist legal services to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people.

For assistance, contact Seniors Rights Victoria on their free and confidential Helpline 1300 368 821

Media Enquiries:
Ron Smith
Media Communications
COTA Victoria
Mobile: 0417 329 201

Seniors Rights Victoria Case Study

Jane, aged 85 years, lives alone and lives with a medical condition which restricts her mobility outside her home. Jane receives community services from the local council.

As a result of her situation Jane relies on her daughter Sarah to assist her with her finances, which Sarah has been doing for a number of years.

Jane provides Sarah with her bank book and instructs Sarah the amount to be withdrawn from her bank account. Sarah goes to Jane’s local branch, whereby bank staff phone Jane to check Jane’s instructions.

This arrangement had been working well for Jane and thus agreed for Sarah to have internet access to her bank account.

Jane receives her monthly bank statements and checks them diligently.

Since the onset of COVID-19 and the government’s recommendations for people over the age of 70 years to self-isolate, Sarah has not been visiting Jane.

Because the banking arrangement had been working well for Jane, she agreed for Sarah to have internet access to her bank account to continue paying Jane’s bills for her.

Jane notices in her most recent bank statement Sarah has taken money from Jane’s bank account via internet transactions without her authority. As a result of these actions Jane wants to cancel Sarah’s internet authority to her bank account.

Jane speaks with a worker from the local council who visits Jane each Friday about her concerns. The worker assists Jane to contact her local branch via the telephone to discuss her concerns.

Outcome: The bank staff cease Sarah’s internet authority to access Jane’s bank account. Jane manages her bills by electronic direct debit. She has organized groceries delivered to her.