In the first of a series of articles about protecting elderly clients, Hilary Buckle, head of the Private Client Department discusses the signs of financial abuse of elderly clients.
- Charity’s leaflet summarises warning signs of financial abuse
- How to protect yourself against financial abuse
The charity Action on Elder Abuse has recently produced a booklet which is free to download from their website. It summarises the various forms of this type of abuse and lists warning signs of which everyone should be aware.
The booklet makes interesting reading. It identifies signs of financial abuse, some of which may seem relatively innocent such as the inclusion of additional names on an older person’s bank account; or a recent change to, or writing a new, Will. Both of these actions may well have an innocent explanation; but the charity encourages those who are involved with older people to be alert to the possibility that another person is seeking a financial gain at the older person’s expense.
Another sign of potential financial abuse is when on-line accounts are set up for an older person or affairs are conducted on their behalf via the Internet. If the older person does not have a computer, then they will have no control over what might be actioned on their behalf. If an attorney is operating an online account without reference to the donor’s wishes, they are unlikely to be executing their attorney duties correctly.
As the charity point out, financial abuse can be prevented and taking action at an early stage can assist in making you more secure. Such steps include:-
- Thinking very carefully before allowing another person access to your credit cards and ATM card: if you must do so, then you should arrange a low monthly limit on your cards to guard against abuse and restrict the damage which might occur if the card is fraudulently used.
- Never sign anything you do not understand or let anyone pressure you into signing a deal.
- Be very cautious about putting anyone else’s name on your property; and especially, before transferring your property to anyone else; similarly take care if you are asked to lend money to someone. These situations should not be entered into without taking specialist legal advice and as the charity points out, if anyone wants you to lend them money or transfer assets to them, if they love you and respect you, they will recognise that you should take advice to make sure that it is the right thing for you.
Unfortunately, at Barrett & Co., we have dealt and are dealing with many cases where a family member or even an attorney has abused the trust which an older person had placed in them. We, therefore, urge all our readers to ensure, by making Lasting Powers of Attorney for financial matters and choosing people whom they can absolutely trust to represent them, that their affairs are protected; and to raise an alert if you suspect that anyone close to you is suffering financial abuse.
In her second article in the series, also published this month, Hilary looks at the steps can be taken to protect elderly or vulnerable clients when they have already lost capacity and a Power of Attorney is not in place.