We all worry about our loved ones as they get on in age, but it is particularly troublesome if we suspect that someone they trust is taking advantage of them financially.
According to research from Age UK, between one and two per cent of people aged 65 or over in the UK fall victim to financial abuse. Donna Rowland, an Associate in the Private Client department at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, explains how to identify the different forms of financial abuse and advises what you can do to tackle it.
The World Health Organization defines financial abuse as: ‘The illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or other resources of the older person.’ It can take many forms but can include:
- stealing or attempting to steal money, possessions or property;
- forcing or coercing to hand over money, possessions, or property;
- using fraud to take out loans or credit cards in your name;
- taking or keeping power of attorney;
- being pressurised to lend money to a relative or friend;
- being charged excessive amounts of money for service;
- family members moving into your home without consent or a prior agreement on sharing costs;
- pressurising someone to sign over their house or property;
- pressurising someone into changing a will; and
- taking charge of benefits and not giving the intended recipient all the money.
Financial abuse is commonly carried out by someone you have a relationship with such as a relative, a friend, a neighbour, a carer, or someone who has authority by way of a power of attorney.
Report to authorities
If you are aware that financial abuse is taking place, you should report your worries to the police and Local Authority Adult Social Services who will investigate and take any appropriate action.
Liaise with financial institutions
Many banks and building societies have signed up to UK Finance’s Code of Practice on financial abuse. Their aim is to support victims of financial abuse to regain control of their finances. Staff have been trained to spot signs of abuse and can set up alerts to prevent further fraudulent transactions. They can also help you get a copy of your credit report to see if someone has taken credit out in your name and take steps to separate you from fraudulent debts.
Get a power of attorney
If your loved one has mental capacity you can apply to get power of attorney, so you could oversee your loved one’s financial affairs.
Apply to the Court of Protection
If the victim of financial abuse does not have mental capacity, then a power of attorney cannot be taken out. You can, however, apply to the Court of Protection for a deputyship order which allows you to make decisions on behalf of someone who has lost the capacity to care for and make decisions for themselves.
If the suspected abuser is misusing their power of attorney, your best option is to report your concerns to the Office of the Public Guardian who can investigate and require the attorney to produce accounts, specified information or documents to show how they have managed your loved one’s finances.
If abuse is found, the Office of the Public Guardian can apply to the Court of Protection to have the attorney removed or their powers revoked.
If the victim lacks mental capacity, the Court of Protection can also make orders prohibiting a specified person from having contact with the victim; enabling another person to bring court proceedings on behalf of the victim to recover the money and; appointing a deputy.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.