Guest Blog – Protecting your loved ones from financial abuse
Chris Broome – Chartered Financial Planner
The concept of someone you love being taken advantage of financially will no doubt send shudders down your spine.
The reality is that this is all too common, and at times it’s happening close to home, perhaps involving other family members.
To shed some light on this topic we asked our friends at HCR Hewitsons to help lift the lid on financial abuse, what it is, and how to look out for your loved ones.
Protecting your loved ones from financial abuse
Tonina Ashby – HCR Hewitsons
Financial abuse is on the increase as people living longer run the risk of developing some vulnerability in the future and the economic squeeze tightens on households in the cost of living crisis.
It is important during these difficult times to protect the most vulnerable in our society from financial and other forms of abuse.
As a professional Deputy with the Court of Protection, I see many cases of financial abuse of older and vulnerable people, particularly those with capacity issues such as dementia and brain injuries.
I have a passion for supporting vulnerable people and for preventing abuse by unscrupulous individuals.
I decided early on in my Court of Protection career that I wanted to work closely with local Police forces and safeguarding teams to develop our response to concerns of financial abuse and misuse of Powers of Attorney.
I hope that by raising awareness of these issues with individuals and professionals, we will support a better network of people working collaboratively to defend the rights of people who cannot defend themselves.
What is financial abuse?
There is a wide definition of financial abuse set out in Section 42(3) of the Care Act 2014.
This suggests that financial abuse includes not only the misuse or theft of a person’s money or property, but also defrauding an individual or applying undue pressure on them in respect of their money or property.
I have seen too often an expectance by perpetrators of an ‘early inheritance’, which they believe they are entitled to.
Financial abuse can take many forms and it is everyone’s responsibility to look out for the signs, which could include:
- Change of use of accounts (e.g sudden online transactions)
- Isolation of the individual
- Large cash transactions
- Excessive cash withdrawals
- Unusual or unexplained transactions
- Unnecessary debt levels / credit cards which are not needed
- Using a person’s property without consent
- Living in a person’s property rent free
- Controlling the person’s spending without justification
- Missing funds, paperwork or valuables
- Unpaid bills or care fees
- Lack of amenities (clothes, spending money, groceries etc)
- Unexplained or excessive bank transfers to relatives
- Unaffordable or unusual gifting
- Sudden change of Will
- Emergence of unknown relatives / unusually heavy involvement of neighbours
- Adding names to bank accounts / use of bank cards
These signs alone do not evidence that financial abuse is taking place but offer a warning that something may require further scrutiny or investigation. With your help, perpetrators of financial abuse can be brought to justice:
NOTE– It is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison for a carer, Attorney or Deputy to ill-treat (or wilfully neglect) a person who lacks mental capacity (s.44 Mental Capacity Act 2005).
NOTE – It is a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison for someone to occupy a role where they are expected to safeguard a person’s finances and to dishonestly abuse that position with the intention to make a gain for himself or another or to expose that individual to risk of loss (s.4 Fraud Act 2006).
What can I do if I have concerns about abuse of a loved one?
If you have concerns that someone may be at risk of financial abuse, you can take action and make a difference:
- Report it to Social Services – You can make a safeguarding referral anonymously to your local council.
- Report it to the Police – The Police can investigate your concerns if there is something criminal suspected, such as fraud, abuse of position or theft.
- Report it to the Office of the Public Guardian – The OPG can investigate the actions of an Attorney or Deputy if you believe there has been some abuse of their authority.
- Encourage your loved one to seek advice about a Lasting Power of Attorney, which could offer better protections and restrictions for managing their finances.
- Seek Advice – You can seek advice from charities supporting older people, such as Age UK Northamptonshire, or charities which support older or vulnerable people from abuse, such as Hourglass. You can also seek advice from a specialist Solicitor, who can advise on your options and potential recovery of assets and rectification for the individual involved.
If you have concerns or wish to discuss your particular circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact me at HCR Hewitsons on 07468 014 117 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.