Financial abuse is the inappropriate, illegal or improper exploitation of the funds or property of the older person. This may be without the older person’s conset or if consent is given, it may be under pressure. Threats may be made, or PIN number of bank cards demanded; family/whanau members may move in and take over the older person’s home; there may be a sale of property or loans given under pressure which effecrtively disadvantages the older person.
Sadly there are those who put their own interests above others. They may have a false sense of entitlement, telling themselves that ‘it’s not theft; it’s payment for what I do’, or that ‘I’m going to inherit this anyway’. Other times there may be a lack of awareness or disregard of the needs and rights of the older person and the process of ageing. For example; the pension is for ‘Koro’s’ needs and not for the kids to spend etc.
In some situations, there are complicating issues of financial or caregiver stress, household overcrowding, mental health problems or drug and/or alcohol problems etc.
If you have found yourself in this situation or know someone who is, you can ring the confidential 24 hour, free helpline. Call 0800 32 668 65. Registered nurses will listen and advise anyone who needs information or support. If needed, callers will be referred to local Elder Abuse Response Service to get help.
We all need to works towards preventing elder abuse and neglect by information sharing and by encouraging everyone to:
- Respect older people / kaumātua
- Support older people / kaumātua to make their own decisions
- Check that older people / kaumātua’s human rights are met
- Ensure that older people / kaumātua live safe and secure, free from violence
- Challenge ageist attitudes that denigrate the value of the older generation
There are a number of specific things to do to make sure you keep in control over your finances.
Monitoring your bank account – Check your statements each month, even if you haven’t before. Watch for spending discrepancies, cashflow and automatic payments. A trusted family member or your Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) for Property will probably do this with you if you ask.
Your PIN number and cheques – Often the temptation to give your PIN number or an open cheque to someone, e.g. family member, home support worker or even bank staff, is because you can’t access the bank yourself. Don’t be tempted. If you do, and money is stolen, the bank will probably refuse a fraud claim. No-one, not even the bank or IRD (Inland Revenue Department), should ever ask you for your PIN number or other passwords. If you need asssitance with accessing your funds your Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) for Property is the safest option. They can keep you supplied with enough cash for day-to-day transactions. Ask your bank, lawyer or Age Concern (page 14-16) about other safe ways of managing your financial affairs.
EFTPOS cards – Many cards now have a function known as payWave (the card has a fan shaped symbol on it). This allows you to make purchases of up to $80 (in NZ) by resting your card on the EFTPOS terminal. It makes everyday purchases easy but is easy money if it falls into the wrong hands. If you are charged for using payWave you may want to use your PIN number instead.
Bank closure – While there have been a significant number of bank closures over recent years some banks are committed to providing improved services for older people. (An example is the Westpac ‘Dementia Friendly’ service that is being rolled out in branches around the country.) Transport to the limited number of branches is however likely to be an ongoing problem for many. Contact Age Concern to see if there is anything they can assist with.