In the last 12 months Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) has managed to establish a working relationship with two major financial institutions who have provided a direct contact for obtaining our client’s bank statements and other relevant information speedily by email, often the same day we request them or within 24-48 hours. This is of course with an Authority to Act from the client.
This is a major development because banks have an obligation to exercise extremely high levels of information security to protect their client’s information, especially in the current climate of scams and cybersecurity breaches. Financial institutions generally have a blanket policy for security reasons not to email bank statements or client information and not to communicate with anyone other than the customer or their Attorney/Administrator.
Previously all banks would refuse to speak with us or send any bank statements by email for security reasons. However, so far two financial institutions have made an exception for Seniors Rights Victoria. We are hoping to influence more financial institutions to do the same.
Cooperation by the banks is invaluable to our service as it enables us to assist clients who are victims of financial abuse far more easily and quickly. Cooperation by these two banks shows that they recognise the importance of the work that we do for their customers and demonstrates their commitment to protecting their vulnerable customers.
Often our clients do not know their account details as they have not seen a bank balance or statement for years because they don’t use internet banking, are confined to a nursing home or no longer drive or are reliant on the perpetrator of financial abuse to get to the bank or the perpetrator is receiving their mail.
Previously (and still today with other banks) we would send a request to a bank and wait months for it to be processed and then encounter the hurdles of their privacy rules and that statements can only be provided to the client or Power of Attorney and by post, etc… This would cause delays of months in our ability to assist our clients, frustration for us and the client, and further financial loss as the financial abuse continued.
Financial abuse happens behind closed doors, in secret and online. Our clients have no idea it is occurring because they don’t use internet banking or have not seen a bank statement for a long time. In instances of financial abuse, the perpetrator often refuses to provide a bank statement even when our client requests it.
As soon as we receive our client’s bank statements, we complete a thorough analysis and if we identify possible financial abuse, we seek the client’s instructions and work in conjunction with our contacts in the bank to bring a stop to the financial abuse. This often involves removing the perpetrator’s access to the account completely, stopping internet banking and putting a block on the bank cards being used by the perpetrator. We also work with the bank to put measures in place so that our clients can still access their money and pay their bills.
We then quantify the loss and assist our clients to recover their losses from the perpetrator.
Unfortunately, financial abuse is very common, and we are proud that we have managed to stop it in many instances and recover some or all of our client’s losses. During 2021-2022, our small service recovered $1.5million dollars for our vulnerable clients.
This has only been made easier now with two financial institutions recognising the importance of the work that we do for their vulnerable customers.
If you, or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, help is available through our confidential helpline on 1300 368 821.
Andelka Obradovic, Lawyer, Seniors Rights Victoria