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Fraud: Ripping Off The Elderly - A Worthy Flagging Up of Elderly Financial Abuse

Posted: Monday, 25 March 2024 @ 16:52

ITV has recently just shown a TV programme on its Tonight series  "Fraud: Ripping Off The Elderly" which was hosted by Paul Brand. 

It is available on ITVX and well worth a watch.

As the government seeks to update power of attorney procedures, the programme asked is enough being done to protect older people from financial abuse?

The show highlighted some interesting statistics: 

  • More than half a billion pounds was taken from people aged 65 and over in England and Wales last year.
  • According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately 1.5 million older adults in England has some form of financial abuse in 2020.
  • With an ageing population, and 1 in 2 of us at risk of being impacted by dementia as we get older, the government is wanting us to set up a lasting power of attorney.
  • The Office of the Public Guardian registered over 1 million lasting powers of attorney in the year 2022-2023, up 9% on the previous year.
  • The government will be updating the application process for Power of Attorney using a new act of parliament, including bringing in an online-only version of Lasting Power of Attorney. I have covered this in a separate post.

Part of the focus on the programme is for calling for improved procedures by banks when lasting power of attorney is being used.

From my point of view, this may be helpful but does not actually really directly hit the nub of the problem.

Some points which I bring to the table:

1  The fact is that even if you have a valid and legal LPA in place, it is relatively easy to both commit LPA fraud and to get away with it especially if you take additional legal steps such as making yourself Executor of the aged person's will. 

2 Ironically by promoting LPAs, the government is enabling more fraud to take place. 

3 This is not to say that you/your loved one should not do a LPA as the consequences of not doing one are risky but in a different way. e.g A Deputyship can result. You just need to be careful in whom you appoint as attorney.

4 The fundamental problem with elderly people's financial affairs stems from a lack of understanding of how abuse happens(from legislators they seem to think the bigger threat is from some scammer, not a family member/false friend), lack of action from authorities(if you go to the police they are unlikely to do anything) and the difficulty there is obtaining key evidence in any event.(Bank statements are the holy grail of proving fraud but are not automatically obtainable. It requires some work to get them)     

5 The biggest threat to your loved one's financial affairs stems not from a scammer but rather a family member/false friend who is very motivated and over a period of time position themselves so they can control your loved one's affairs.

6 Much financial abuse is only discovered after the loved one has died. The Office Of Public Guardian (a form of control) do not investigate LPAs once the Loved One has died.

7 The fundamental solution is for those in forms of trust (be those with LPAs or not) is for them to be forced to be transparent. e.g make disclosure of Bank Statements compulsory and to encourage the police to get more involved. If you require specific help, please contact us.