Financial Elder Abuse: Public Trustee

The World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as ‘a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person’.
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Financial abuse is the most common form of Elder Abuse and is a serious and far reaching problem that can happen to anyone. However, some people of advanced age or living with cognitive impairments are at a greater risk.

Financial abuse can take many forms and can happen over an extended period of time. It can be deliberate but can also happen unknowingly through well-intended actions.

If you are not sure whether you have total trust in someone, you should never allow them to control your financial affairs.

Examples of Financial Elder Abuse

  • coercing you to be guarantor for a loan;
  • denying you access to your money or bank statements;
  • forging your signature;
  • having you provide care or other services without being paid or fairly compensated;
  • pressuring you to sign legal documents or powers of attorney without proper explanation;
  • pressuring, tricking or threatening you to change your Will, power of attorney or other legal arrangements;
  • repeatedly asking for 'loans' or access to an expected inheritance;
  • selling your property and keeping the proceeds;
  • taking a loan from you that is never paid back;
  • taking control of your bank accounts;
  • threatening or pressuring you to invest in something on their behalf;
  • using your money/pension to pay for expenses of their own; or
  • using your money or property without your permission.

How to Protect Yourself

Prevention and early intervention can make a real difference in safeguarding your assets. 

Consider the following:

  • ensure you have a valid and up-to-date Will;
  • make an Enduring Power of Attorney and consider and clearly communicate how your money and property are to be handled if something happens to you or you can no longer communicate your wishes effectively;
  • get independent advice;
  • calculate your future age care wants, needs and expenses before gifting or loaning assets or money;
  • make loans legally binding;
  • formally document living arrangements and any contribution to properties (for example, purchases, renovations, extensions & granny flats);
  • always protect your bank and financial cards, cheque books and other important documents and never give your PIN or password to anyone;
  • keep track of your bank accounts, investments and other assets;
  • if someone asks for money, discuss it first with a trusted family member or friend;
  • talk to your bank about setting up direct debits and pre-authorised bill payments; and
  • always read contracts and other documents carefully and never sign anything under duress.

You can make documents that will help you with in making lifestyle decisions if you need assistance, such as:

Important Contacts and Assistance

Financial elder abuse is often difficult to identify, hard to prove and can be difficult to fix once it is discovered. If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, or has a question about elder abuse, there are a number of agencies and departments that can help: 

A free service providing information and help with suspected cases of all types of Elder Abuse. 
Elder Abuse Helpline: 1300 724 679 
General information Metro: (08) 9479 7566
General information Country (freecall): 1800 655 566 

Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) 
Information and advice including guardianship services for older people with reduced decision-making capacity. 
Telephone: 1300 858 455 or (08) 9278 7300

State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) 
If an Enduring Power of Attorney is being abused, you can apply to the SAT to have the matter investigated. 
Telephone: (08) 9219 3111 or 1300 306 017 

Northern Suburbs Community Legal Centre - Older Peoples Rights Service
Provides legal advice, information, referral and crisis counselling for older people who are experiencing elder abuse or are at risk of being abused.
Telephone: Mirrabooka (08) 9440 1663 | Joondalup (08) 9301 4413

Legal Aid WA 
Legal Aid WA offers free or low-cost legal services to the community and can help if you have questions about the law, if you are going to court, or if you need advice on a legal problem.
Telephone:1300 650 579 | 9:00 am to 4:00 pm week days.

Aged Care Complaints Commissioner 
A free service for raising concerns about the quality of care or services being delivered to people receiving aged care services subsidised by the Australian Government.
Telephone: 1800 550 552 
Email: lodge a complaint.

WA Police 
Telephone: Non-life Threatening 131 444 | Emergencies 000

If you suspect someone is the victim of financial elder abuse, report it as soon as you can.