independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Elder abuse on the rise as OAPs targeted for theft and deception

GROWING numbers of pensioners are falling prey to theft, fraud and deception – often from the people they trust most.

Elder abuse officers in the Health Service Executive (HSE) are receiving a marked increase in reports of older people being financially exploited.

More than one in five of all 1,850 reports of elder abuse made in the first eight months of 2012 involved some form of financial deception, the Irish Independent has learned.

However, the reported cases of financial abuse are just the tip of the iceberg and the real numbers who may be suffering in silence, or unaware they are being targeted, runs into thousands.

A damning dossier has been compiled by HSE elder abuse officers.

The shocking files reveal cases of:

• Forging or forcing an older person's signature.

• Abusing joint signature authority on a bank account.

• Misusing ATMs/credit cards.

• Cashing an older person's cheques without permission.

• Taking pension money.

• Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, contract or power of attorney through deception or undue influence.

• Persuading an impaired older person to change a will or policy to alter the beneficiary.

• Using a power of attorney, including enduring power of attorney, for purposes beyond those for which it was originally executed.

• Promising care in exchange for money or property and not following through.

Four in 10 of the files were referred to gardai and legal action was taken in the case of 70. Sons and daughters were likely to be the perpetrators – but neighbours also emerged as taking financial advantage of an older person.

John Costello, a solicitor with Beauchamps in Dublin who was part of a Department of Health working group on elder abuse, told the Irish Independent that serious issues of exploitation could arise in cases where there was a joint bank account. "It is a minefield and banks need to be more careful where large sums are involved," he added.

Property

He said new regulations by the Law Society come into effect this month which make it mandatory for separate solicitors to act for both parties where gifts of property are involved. The move had been criticised on cost grounds but the change was necessary to protect older people, he added.

Dermot Kirwan of Friends of the Elderly said several older people had been hoodwinked by telemarketing carried out by a hearing aid company.

"The householder receives a call from somebody saying they are doing a survey. Then they offer a free hearing test in their home," he said.

"After the hearing test, the person is asked for a deposit and it can mean the tester walking with the older person to the credit union or post office to hand over money." Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland said there was a perception that older people were easy prey. "They are often caught in a bind because they are dependent on the perpetrator," he added.

editorial comment - page 28

Irish Independent

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