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Financial and Material Abuse

Financial or material abuse can occur in isolation, but research has shown where there are other forms of abuse, there is likely to be financial abuse occurring. Although this is not always the case, everyone should be aware of this possibility. Potential indicators of financial abuse include:

  • Change in living conditions
  • Lack of heating, clothing or food
  • Inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money
  • Unexplained withdrawals from an account
  • Unexplained loss/misplacement of financial documents
  • The recent addition of authorised signers on a client’s or donors signature card
  • Sudden or unexpected changes in a Will or other financial documents.

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

They provide a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially motivated internet crime. People are scammed, ripped off or conned everyday and they want this to stop.

The service is run by the City of London Police working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau who are responsible for assessment of the reports and to ensure that your fraud reports reach the right place. The City of London Police is the national policing lead for economic crime.

Report fraud and cyber crime crime

You can report fraud or cyber crime using their online reporting service any time of the day or night; the service enables you to both report a fraud and find help and support. They also provide help and advice over the phone through the Action Fraud contact centre. You can talk to their fraud and internet crime specialists by calling 0300 123 2040.

Financial Abuse and Scams

Guidance for councillors, directors, managers and social work practitioners

A mass marketing scam is a misleading or deceptive business practice where the person receives an unsolicited or uninvited contact (e.g. by letter, email, phone or advertisement) and false promises are made to con the victim out of money. A doorstep scam is whereby victims are cold called at their homes and persuaded to part with money as a result of rogue trading activity.

Top Tips- financial abuse and scams

Police Commissioner: PCC backs charity campaign to help protect older people from financial abuse

Merseyside / January 24

 Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, has joined Action on Elder Abuse in urging older people and their families to learn how to spot the signs of financial abuse.

Data from the charity suggests that as many as 1,553 older people in Merseyside may currently be experiencing financial abuse.*

Typical financial crimes perpetrated against older people include fraud, forgery or embezzlement; the misuse of proxy decision making powers; ‘doorstep crime’, e.g. bogus tradesmen and postal, phone or internet scams.

Jane Kennedy, Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside, said: “Sadly, elder abuse is a big problem and one that can take place anywhere, even in the victim’s own home. In many cases the perpetrators are known to the victim and may even by the person who has been trusted to care for them.

“All of this can make the reporting of these crimes very difficult, which is why I am working with Action on Elder Abuse to raise awareness of the issue and highlight steps the public can take to combat it.

“It is vital that we draw attention to this problem and bring these often hidden crimes out into the open. I urge anyone who is either being abused themselves or suspects a loved one may be at risk to be vigilant and report it to the police or to Action on Elder Abuse’s confidential helpline.”

The PCC and Action on Elder Abuse have said that older people can help keep themselves safe by:

  • Checking bank statements regularly and tracking receipts
  • Reducing how much money can be taken from an account at any one time
  • Having a copy of the bank statement sent to someone trustworthy to check
  • Limiting the use of ‘chip and pin’ to control money
  • Keeping important documents and valuables out of sight
  • Never letting anyone into your home unless you can confirm their identity or they have made an appointment
  • Only booking work on a house through ‘trusted trader’ schemes
  • Treat anyone asking for your financial details unsolicited with suspicion and note that banks will never ask you for your account number or pin details.

In instances where an older person is not in a position to protect themselves from financial abuse (e.g. they have dementia), the charity advises that families and loved ones stay vigilant to spot the signs that abuse may be taking place. These include:

  • Signatures on official documents that do not resemble the older person’s own
  • Changes in banking habits (e.g. large sums of money being withdrawn)
  • The inclusion of additional names on bank accounts
  • Abrupt changes to, or the sudden establishment of, wills
  • Sudden and unexplained transfers of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
  • The unexplained disappearance of funds or possessions
  • The deliberate isolation of an older person from friends and family, resulting in a carer having total control.
  • The sudden introduction of a Power of Attorney document that places control with an unknown Third Party

The charity is urging anyone who has concerns that they, or someone close to them is being financially abused to call its confidential helpline (080 8808 8141) which can offer support and advice and support on all aspects of elder abuse.

Action on Elder Abuse Chief Executive, Gary FitzGerald, said: “Unfortunately, older people are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse and there are far too many people who seek to exploit them. Financial abuse can take many forms – it’s everything from carers or family pilfering money to phone scams and having Power of Attorney misappropriated. Very often, the perpetrator is someone close to the older person, such as a relative or carer.

“So we want to equip older people to protect themselves where appropriate and for those who love them to spot the signs that their older friend or relative may be being abused. Talking about things such as internet safety and ‘stranger danger’ is something we do routinely with our children. It’s about time we took the issue of abuse of older people just as seriously.”

Action on Elder Abuse operates a confidential helpline (080 8808 8141) offering advice and support on all aspects of elder abuse.

AREA ALL OVER 65 NUMBER OF OLDER PEOPLE LIKELY TO BE EXPERIENCING ABUSE
Knowsley 24,644 147
Liverpool 70,039 420
Sefton 61,809 370
St. Helens 35,384 212
Wirral 67,007 402
Merseyside (Met County) 258,883 1553

* Figure calculated using UK Study of Abuse and Neglect of Older People Prevalence Survey Report (O’Keefe et al 2007) and ONS data.

Action on Elder Abuse is a UK-wide charity with a presence in all four nations. It aims to protect and prevent the abuse of vulnerable older people by raising awareness of the issues, encouraging education and giving information and support to those in need.

It has the only national freephone helpline (Elder Abuse Response) dedicated to this cause, open Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.00am and 5.00pm on 080 8808 8141 for confidential support and information.

For more information, please visit www.elderabuse.org.uk

Tonight: Elderly Theft: Robbing the Relatives

Elderly Theft: Robbing the Relatives is on ITV at 7.30pm
Elderly Theft: Robbing the Relatives is on ITV at 7.30pm Photo: ITV/Tonight

Tonight can exclusively reveal, for the first time, there have been 116,559 suspected ‘elderly fraud’ crimes in the last three years – according to Action Fraud.

“We know that criminals are cruelly targeting those over the age of 65,” said Detective Inspector Chris Felton of the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

He added: “The consequences of being defrauded for older people are often harsh and long-lasting.”

 The show found there were also 91,820 ‘financial abuse’ crime reports to the police, where the victim was aged over 65, for 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17.

Worryingly, these figures show, an increasing number of thieves are relatives.

“I feel terrible,” said 97-year-old Beatrice Cooper, after she found out her daughter and granddaughter had stolen her £23,000 life-savings.

“I never thought that they would do such a thing,” she told other relatives in her home in South Wales.

Beatrice, 97, loved her family. But her 'spirit was broken' when she had money stolen from her by relatives
Beatrice, 97, loved her family. But her ‘spirit was broken’ when she had money stolen from her by relatives

Christine Vaughan, 73, stole twenty thousand pounds, and 49-year-old Adele Mansell took another three thousand – spending it on home improvements, holidays, clothes – and painkillers.

“I hate them for what they done to my nan,” said Beatrice’s other granddaughter Sharn Ellis.

“Her spirit was broken.”

– Sharn Ellis

Speaking to Tonight’s Fiona Foster for the first time, Sharn’s sister Angela Evans describes the moment the crime was revealed.

“I can see her little face, she was more upset over me crying,” sobbed Angela.

Angela Evans and Sharn Ellis, Beatrice's granddaughters
Angela Evans and Sharn Ellis, Beatrice’s granddaughters Credit: ITV/Tonight

It emerged a bank card, that the pensioner knew nothing about, and stolen cheques from her handbag, were being used to rob her account.

Angela, challenged greedy cousin AdeIe: “I said I know you are addicted to painkillers.

“What about all this other money, spending, on a holiday and used my grandmother’s card to pay for it.

“She was buying from maternity shops because she’s large in size.”

Vaughan and Mansell maintained their innocence right up until Beatrice’s death last year – they later pleaded guilty and were jailed in May.

Action on Elder Abuse has said the majority of its financial abuse calls relate to relatives as suspects.

“The people who steal the most from older people are their own loved ones,” said the charity’s Chief Executive, Gary Fitzgerald.

“Their own families, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and grandchildren,” he added.

Gary Fitzgerald, CEO of Action on Elder Abuse
Gary Fitzgerald, CEO of Action on Elder Abuse Credit: ITV/Tonight

The programme also looks at the legal systems in place in Britain to protect our vulnerable older people, like, ‘Power of Attorney’.

This legal document allows someone to make decisions about your finances or welfare, particularly if you cannot make those decisions anymore.

Unemployed Richard Willis, 65, committed fraud and took £600,000 from his dementia suffering mother.

“What he actually did was, systematically strip her bank accounts of all her money and while she was in a care home, he then, sold her property from under her.”

– Wayne Preece, Detective Inspector, Northamptonshire Police

As attorney, he was supposed to look after his mother’s finances, but in a gross act of betrayal sold her retirement apartment, leaving her in a care-home with just two sets of clothes to her name.

Caroline Bielanska, from Solicitors for the Elderly, has written extensively on the pros and cons of LPAs.  “They may well feel that this is somehow compensation for all the hassle that’s involved in being an attorney,” she said.

“They are either unaware that they can’t make large gifts to themselves, or they will justify why they are doing so.  They may feel, well, I am going to get this eventually, mum doesn’t need the money now, but I do.”

Caroline Bielanska, Solicitors for the Elderly
Caroline Bielanska, Solicitors for the Elderly Credit: ITV/Tonight

“We’ve had a good life together haven’t we Bay?” said 98-year-old Lee Proctor, an ex-school teacher.  “Yes we have.” said her younger husband 88-year-old Bay Proctor, a former exploration geophysicist.

The Kent couple who have known each other 60 years appointed their son Seth Proctor, 54, as their power of attorney, along with their other son Rob Proctor.  “I had taken very much a back seat,” said Rob.

“I hadn’t received all the information about the accounts, my half brother [Seth] wanted very much to be in control.”  Bay and Lee needed to be transferred into full-time residential care.

Lee and Bay Proctor
Lee and Bay Proctor had £150,000 stolen from them by their son, Seth Credit: ITV/Tonight

Seth grumbled to a national newspaper about having to sell his parents’ house and three cottages to pay for their private care.

“This leads to the only avenue available, selling property once the cash runs out, so providing the Exchequer with useful income via VAT on fees plus stamp duty and capital gains tax on the sale,” he said in 2012.

He netted more than £400,000 from the sale and used some of it on care fees, but he pumped the rest into a failed cafe, called ‘The Intolerant Wife’.

Seth stole £125,000 leaving his parents in debt for the first time ever.  “The care home hadn’t been paid,’ said Rob Proctor.

“Both Bay and Lee have reacted with enormous dignity, stoicism and without any vindictiveness.  “They have suffered real hardship and they wouldn’t want that to happen to anybody else.”

The state now pays for the remainder of their care fees.

Rob Proctor
Rob Proctor Credit: ITV/Tonight

Seth Proctor, 54, was convicted in May after pleading guilty, and received a suspended sentence.  The majority of attorneys do a good job, but this year there have been 1,266 ‘safeguarding referral’ investigations in England and Wales – with a fifth, 272 ending up in the Court of Protection.

A Power of Attorney system exists across the UK.

In England and Wales the Lasting Power Attorney system is more common, with more than 2.6 million registered.

It is slightly different in Northern Ireland where they use the older Enduring Powers of Attorney, which can only be used when someone lacks mental capacity.

The City of London Police urges those over 65 to look out for the tell-tale signs and if you believe you or someone you care for has been a victim of fraud, please contact Action Fraud online at: www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

If you have any concerns that someone is misusing an LPA you should report any suspicion of abuse immediately to OPG.

Liverpool Echo: Shamed Wirral carer who stole £4k from dementia-sufferer

A shamed carer  stole £4,000 from a woman with dementia.  Mandy Griffiths, 33, helped herself to the savings of Sharon Blythe, who has vascular dementia because of a stroke.

She joined the firm Support 2 Independence in May 2015 and was one of several carers looking after the 51-year-old woman.  Liverpool Crown Court heard Griffiths was authorised to withdraw money on behalf of Ms Blythe using her bank card.

These transactions had to be logged, but Griffiths made 12 unauthorised withdrawals between March 4 and May 16 this year.  Bernice Campbell, prosecuting, said CCTV footage from a Post Office showed her stealing cash on May 6.

Griffiths agreed to a voluntary interview on July 13 and accepted she had been caught in the act.  Griffiths, of Balfour Road, Prenton, Wirral , who had no previous convictions, admitted theft.

Michael Lloyd, defending, said his client made “full and frank admissions” and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The judge, Recorder John Barrett, said it was “an extremely mean offence” against a vulnerable and dependant victim.  He said: “It is particularly distressing when there is a breach of trust situation and this was not a one-off

Please click on the links below for more information:

Action Fraud

Age UK- Only the tip of the Iceberg: April 2015

Age UK – Safeguarding Older People from Financial Abuse: Factsheet Sept 2017

A to Z of Fraud

Money Matters: Research in to the Extent and Nature of Financial Abuse in Intimate Relationships

Prevention Information Sheet: Financial or Material Abuse

Refuge- My Money My Life Report

12 Scams of Christmas Leaflet

Find Support in Knowsley

Find Support In Liverpool

Find Support in Sefton

Find Support in Wirral

Links-to-Other-Websites