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The risk of financial abuse in older people

Posted on 15/09/2016

Older people are at a higher risk of financial abuse, particularly those with dementia or reduced cognitive function. The scope of the abuse ranges from direct theft of money and scams designed to target a specific group of people, to being ‘tricked’ or ‘misled’ into signing up for products or services that they don’t need or don’t fully understand.

It is not just faceless criminals or practised scammers either. According to Age UK, figures show that at least 130,000 people have suffered some form of financial abuse from someone known to them since turning 65. Women are more likely than men to be victims of financial abuse, and the majority are women aged 80-89 living on their own. 

With many older people struggling on small pensions or with assets needed to pay for things like long-term care, even a small financial loss can have a large effect. The impact is not simply financial; it can also be an emotional time, making it hard to develop trust, and very stressful while trying to deal with the repercussions.

Age UK has called for a better understanding and awareness of the signs of financial abuse across the whole sector of people involved in the care and finances of older people, including banking staff, health and social services, and legal and police services.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “An ageing population brings many positives but also challenges, such as the steep rise in the numbers of older people with dementia and other cognitive problems - which we know are a major risk factor for financial abuse. That’s why it is so important that we develop practical tools for organisations, not just in the financial sector but in health and care too, to help staff who engage with older people to be alert to cognitive decline, the consequent risks of financial exploitation and abuse, and how best to prevent and tackle them.”

It’s also important that older people and their families are educated on ways to keep their money safe. Some top tips include:

·       Banking and internet passwords should normally never be written down, including your PIN number, as giving someone your PIN number could mean that you are not protected if money is taken.

·       If you have a carer or support worker who helps with shopping, for example, make sure that you ask for all receipts and log how much was spent.

·       Keep all bank statements and bills, and double check amounts on a regular basis so you will notice if anything is different or missing in good time.

·       If you need help with your finances, ask a trusted family member to aid you with transactions and spending, and also to keep track of your money. If you can, have more than one person so that you have someone to call on if the other person is away, and to monitor how each other tracks your money.  

There is a lot of good information and advice on financial abuse on the Age UK website.

There is also a good article in The Telegraph that looks at the precautions that carers should take when they are required to spend any of their client’s money. 

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