Financial abuse, as defined by the World Health Organisation, is ‘the illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or resources of the older person’.
Older Australians are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse because, for a range of reasons, they often rely on family or close friends to assist them with the day-to-day management of their affairs. Research undertaken by the School of Social Work and Social Policy of the University of Queensland into the financial management of assets by older Australians indicated that:
- 72.4% of older Australians received help with their paperwork
- 54.6% received help with paying bills
- 41% received help with accessing their money and banking
- 36.9% received help with their pensions and management
- 30.8% received help with their property management.
The Public Advocate (Victoria) observed that the most common financial abuse involves family members in either:
a) preserving an inheritance by not spending money on an older person’s welfare needs; or
b) bringing forward an inheritance by using an older person’s assets for their own benefit.
There are also warning signs that one may be in a financially abusive relationship, including:
- Being forced to change their will
- Another person is accessing or controlling their bank accounts or credit cards or using it without their consent
- Denying access to their own money or property
- Large or unexplained withdrawals or transfers have been made from their bank account
- Negligently mishandling assets including misuse by a caregiver
- Over-charging or not delivering caregiving services
- Being forced to sign a will, deed, contract or power of attorney through deception, coercion or undue influence
- Being promised long-term or lifetime care in exchange for money and property but not receiving such care