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Home / NICU Blog / Financial Abuse No excuse for elder abuse

Financial Abuse – No excuse for elder abuse

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Financial abuse involves controlling, deceiving or coercing somebody’s financial freedom or independence. The abusers are often a family member, friend, carer, spouse or de facto partner. The abuser could even be an impatient relative competing for inheritance.

Financial abuse can exist in different forms:
  • Anyone in an abusive domestic relationship;
  • Forcing a vulnerable person to take out a loan or product which does not benefit them;
  • An abuser could be a Power of Attorney abusing their authority for their own gain, taking money from someone’s account to pay personal bills;
  • Attempting to manage someone’s finances and controlling what they spend;
  • Pressuring someone into being a guarantor when they lack knowledge or the capacity to make an informed decision;
  • An abuser could be a carer who claims to be a good friend but has no direct blood relationship with the victim.
Difficulty in reporting financial abuse

 It can be difficult for a victim of financial abuse to report the mistreatment. Some of these reasons can trigger more vulnerability or even fear.

Fear of losing the relationship

The fear of losing a connection with a loved one can become stronger as you age. Some can fear abandonment, especially when living alone; your mind can become fixated on negative thoughts. For some people, the fear of loneliness can be too much to endure. Loneliness can be stronger than the fear of financial loss so the victim will agree to do things they are not comfortable with.

Fear of possible retaliation

The victim may be scared to seek help. If an elderly or disabled person needs assistance through a support system, the abuse could come from having that dependence. The lack of access and isolation can prevent the victim from reporting the abuse. Another reason could be that the victim worries that they have no evidence to back up the abuse and that no one will believe them.

Not wanting to face the truth.

 When it is someone you love, it is hard to adapt to the possibility that a loved one may be carrying out the exploitation, especially if you have no proof. An example would be when unauthorised transactions may appear on a card, and the only reasonable explanation is that the card was taken because it is proven that the card had to be present for the purchase. 

Fear of not being believed.

Some victims of financial abuse suffer from dementia. People perceive that dementia is always associated with old age or the inability to understand or make clear decisions. This perception could generate fear in the victim of no one believing them if they were to report the abuse.

Wanting to protect the person

Financial abuse can be reported to the police depending on the incident. The feeling of not wanting to create any legal repercussions for a loved one can get in the way of reporting the abuse. There are other ways to stop this from happening to avoid financial abuse in the future.

How can the Trustee and Guardian help?

Depending on whether the NSW trustee and guardian is appointed as a financial manager or guardian, or both, they may be able to help.

1. They can take control of the person's financial bank accounts;

2. Organise meals, pay electricity bills and any other living expenses;

3. Ensure that no one can gain access to funds or manipulate that person into some formal obligations such as Financial Management Orders or Power of Attorney;

4. Organise a support service to assist the vulnerable so that their life situation is not dependent on their family. 

What’s the next step?

Ask straightforward, non-threatening questions if someone seems to be acting suspiciously. Take the person aside so they are on their own to determine if they are under any financial manipulation. If you think someone is in danger, call the police immediately. If you need to report financial abuse, you can do so anonymously, or if you are a victim of abuse, you should seek professional advice from the following:

NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal 1300 006 228

NSW Trustee and Guardian on 1300 109 290

White Ribbon Australia call 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732

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