Charlie Weston: It is usually a relative who steals from the elderly
Older people are an easy mark when it comes to financial abuse.
Compared with other generations, they tend to be on a good financial footing. Most older people have paid off their mortgages, have little or no other debts, and they tend to have cash in the bank, post office or credit union.
Sometimes they have to get others to do shopping for them or collect their pensions for them.
This makes them a target for thieves. And more often than not the perpetrator is a family member.
Financial elder abuse is widespread. A survey undertaken by Ulster Bank, at the behest of Age Action, found that half of bank officials in branches suspected their customers were victims.
But for the most part financial elder abuse is invisible. That makes its a sneaky as well as a slimy crime.
And sadly, older people are unaware it is a problem, making them more vulnerable to the slippery criminals.
Elder financial abuse is where older people have their savings taken, or are pressurised into handing over money.
The practice can be as blunt as demanding money from older people, keeping back some of their pension money, or putting them under pressure to sign off on loans.
As well as trying to con them out of their money, older people are also vulnerable to attempts to get them to alter their wills.
It is thought hundreds of older people face demands for money every year.
In the majority of cases of elder abuse, the perpetrators are immediate family members. This means the crime is largely invisible because older people are unaware that a crime has been committed, or are too embarrassed to report a family member for trying to fiddle them. The breach of trust also leads to shame and disgust being suffered by the older person.
A complicating factor is the fact that sons and daughters tapping their parents for cash are often heavily in debt.
The best way for older people to protect themselves is to be informed, to ensure their friends and family know what warnings signs to watch out for, and to act when they suspect elder abuse.
Age Action has launched a video and issued a leaflet to make young and older people aware of incidences of senior citizens being done out of their money.
The HSE operates an information line for reporting cases of suspected elder abuse from Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm, at 1850 24 1850. Age Action also runs an information line for anyone concerned about elder abuse. It operates from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, at 01 475 6989.
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