COTA Victoria’s Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) program is an independent, specialist state-wide community legal service dedicated to preventing and responding to elder abuse.
Elder abuse is defined as any act that causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone in a position of trust. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.
Financial abuse is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. It is the illegal or improper use of a person’s property, finances and other assets without their informed consent or where consent is obtained by fraud, manipulation or duress.
Financial abuse usually occurs between an older person and a family member, but it can also happen with carers or friends. It might involve a family member or friend:
- taking a loan with a promise of repayment but not paying the money back
- stealing money, or using an older person’s banking and credit card without consent
- forcefully encouraging changes to a will or other legal document
- selling a property or other assets without authority or consent
- forcing the transfer of a property over to someone else’s name.
COVID-19 has created an environment in which financial abuse may be more likely to occur and we want you to be mindful of this. The economic pressures arising from the pandemic are leading many adult children to turn to their parents or other relatives for financial support.
Most of us want to do whatever we can to support our family and it can be daunting to think that a family member might be capable of this type of abuse. Yet this is something the team at SRV deals with every single day. In fact, in two thirds of cases that are dealt with by SRV, the abuse is perpetrated by an adult child of the older person.
If you’re thinking about loaning money to a friend or relative or allowing someone to move into your home, we encourage you to:
- take a look at the Care for your assets: Money, Ageing and Family resource that’s been published by Seniors Rights Victoria. This resource provides comprehensive information and advice that can help to keep you and your money safe.
- seek financial advice to ensure you understand the legal implications of the arrangement, including any impact it may have on Centrelink payments.
- ensure any agreement you enter into is in writing.
- remember that you have the right to say no if you do not feel comfortable with the arrangement.
For free, confidential information on a situation you believe may involve financial abuse, please phone Seniors Rights Victoria on 1300 36 88 21.