Millions returned to victims of financial elder abuse

Older Australians are being urged to seek legal advice after more than $3 million was recovered and returned to victims of financial elder abuse.

A growing number of seniors are reaching out for legal help as a result of elder abuse and, in particular, financial elder abuse.

In the year to June 2022, Legal Aid NSW recovered and returned $1.9 million to older clients who had been victims of abuse, while Seniors Rights Victoria managed to recover $1.5 million for 100 clients over the same period.

Financial abuse of the elderly is surprisingly common and can take many forms, but generally occurs when a person (whether related or not) takes or misuses an older person’s money, assets or other property without permission.

Read: Financial elder abuse is increasing, lawyers say

It can also include acts such as signing legal documents on behalf of an older person without their consent; selling or disposing of a person’s property; shopping for an older person and not returning change, or misusing financial powers granted under an Enduring Power of Attorney.

It can have a devastating effect on the quality of a person’s retirement as their hard-earned nest egg – and faith in the perpetrator – is stripped away.

Legal Aid NSW is encouraging more older Australians to contact its Elder Abuse Service (EAS) if they suspect they, or someone they know, are experiencing financial elder abuse.

Read: Experts predict a shift in perception of retirees

The push comes after a 20 per cent increase in self-referrals to the service in 2021-22.

Mary Lovelock, senior solicitor at EAS, says the perpetrators are most often family members such as children or grandchildren.

“We have had several clients come to us with this issue who are on the verge of homelessness. It can cause significant financial and mental stress for already vulnerable people,” she says.

Read: Mental health experts share the one thing they wish everyone knew

She says exact numbers for financial elder abuse are hard to pin down as victims are often unsure if a crime has actually been committed against them. And of those who are aware, shame and embarrassment often make people reluctant to report issues.

But Ms Lovelock says financial elder abuse is far more common than most people realise, and that any reporting is handled with the highest degree of privacy.

“We have helped hundreds of seniors recoup money and defend their rights. We are here to support you and everything you say to a solicitor is confidential under client-professional privilege,” she says.

Have you experienced financial abuse? What did you do or what would you do? Let us know in the comments section below.

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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