Solicitors who specialise in acting for older or vulnerable clients are trained to notice signs in their client of financial abuse (and, indeed, psychological and physical abuse, but no room to cover those here today).
It is a sad fact that financial abuse is actually very common and that often the abuse is by a family member or ‘friend’. In these cases, there are measures which can be taken to halt the abuse – but how to recognise it? Well, symptoms may include
- Deliberate isolation of the person from their friends and family, resulting in the abuser having total control
- Signatures on cheques etc which do not resemble the person’s own or signed when the person cannot write.
- Sudden changes in bank accounts, including unexplained withdrawals of large sums.
- The sudden inclusion of additional names on the person’s bank account
- Abrupt changes to, or unexpected creation of a Will
- The sudden appearance of previously un-involved relatives claiming their right to deal with the person’s affairs or possessions
- The unexplained transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
- Numerous unpaid bills, overdue rent or care home bills, etc when there is someone who is supposed to be paying bills
- Lack of amenities such as TV, personal grooming items and appropriate clothing that the person should be able to afford
- The unexplained disappearance of valuables such as art, silverware or jewellery
- Change in living conditions, lack of heating, clothing or food or inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money
I should emphasise that the presence of any one or more of these is not proof positive of abuse. Some may indicate a decline into dementia and a genuine attempt at care by a concerned but perhaps inexpert person. But they are enough to indicate that proper checks should be carried out to ensure that all is as it should be. If you see any of these signs in a person you know you should take the trouble to report your concerns. Action on Elder Abuse (0808 808 8141) would be a good starting point – even if the person is not in fact elderly, but vulnerable. If you think that you may, yourself, be falling victim to abuse of this kind either ring Action on Elder Abuse or consult a solicitor specialising in this area of law who will be able to advise you on how to stop the problem.
Prevention is better than cure. The appointment of a truly trustworthy Attorney will provide protection against financial abuse of this kind.
Another form of financial abuse is the scam. Again, prevention is always better than cure. The Metropolitan Police has a useful set of ten golden rules to avoid falling victim. Here they are:
- Be suspicious of all ‘too good to be true’ offers and deals. There are no guaranteed get rich quick schemes.
- Do not agree to offers and deals immediately. Insist on time to obtain independent/legal advice before making a decision.
- Never hand over money or sign anything until you have checked the credentials of the company or individual.
- Never send money to anyone you do not know or trust, whether in the UK or abroad, or use methods of payment you are not comfortable with.
- Never give banking or personal details to anyone you do not know and trust and never disclose your PIN or passwords or lend anyone your bank card to anyone at all.
- Always log on to a website directly. Do not connect by clicking on links provided by e-mail.
- Do not rely solely on glowing testimonials provided by the company or individual; find solid independent evidence of their success.
- Always take independent/legal advice if an offer involves money, time or commitment.
- If you spot a scam or have been scammed, report it and get help. Contact ActionFruad on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfruad.police.uk. Contact local Police if the suspect is known or still in the area.
- Do not be embarrassed to report a scam. Because the scammers are cunning and clever there is no shame in being deceived. By reporting you will make it more difficult for them to deceive others.