It has only taken seniors advocate, Anne McGowan, two years to put together a collection of valuable resources designed to help fight a growing problem – Financial Elder Abuse.
More than 1 in 20 older people are financially abused but industry experts indicate the rates are much higher. Sadly, rural areas are not immune to this life-shattering form of abuse. Author of Protecting Seniors’ Wealth Guide, says financial abuse occurs in rural settings as well.
“Our investigations indicate it’s widespread, and happens across all socio-economic groups. I’ve received calls from people in country areas, looking to purchase the guide,” she explains.
“To give you an example, there was a story we refer to in the guide where an elder husband and wife were interviewed on NBN’s Morning Show, along with their lawyer and the manager of the NSW Elder Abuse helpline.”
“They sat there in tears and explained how their youngest adult son, while pretending to handle their investments/financial affairs lied and manipulated them into signing documents, that meant their only asset, a large rural property, was signed over to him.”
“This was against the parents’ wishes, and they didn’t realise what the son was actually doing. They wanted to keep the property and live in it for the rest of their lives, and then it was meant to be divided between their four sons as an inheritance.”
Ms McGowan says this form of abuse is the “ultimate betrayal” as it is usually perpetrated by a family member. Pressuring elderly victims to sign over assets, change their wills or even sell the family home. Unfortunately, they usually get away with it because victims are too ashamed and embarrassed to report such incidents to the police. She calls this “inheritance impatience.”
A victim having no money left for food or personal items, being fearful or withdrawn, appearing upset or lacking confidence are all signs of this form of abuse. Ms McGowan urges seniors living in rural areas, and those who genuinely help them, to become informed about this issue. “Awareness can lead to prevention, and financial abuse situations could possibly be avoided,” she says.
“I would also recommend they always seek legal advice before signing any documents that concern their legal and financial affairs, or if they have any concerns.” She advises those who can’t access a lawyer to call the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 221.
Elder financial abuse can include:
- taking money or property;
- forging an older person's signature;
- getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence;
- using the older person's property or possessions without permission;
- or promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through.