I became the victim of financial abuse: One retiree shares his story

The Senate has released a special report, calling for a royal commission into the financial abuse of elderly people. The

The Senate has released a special report, calling for a royal commission into the financial abuse of elderly people. The report highlighted that thousands of elder Australians become victims of financial abuse every year, often at the hands of friends or family.

John* lives in a retirement village in Queensland, and has always taken care of his own finances. Despite having a slight mental disability, John has traditionally made smart investments.

Sharing his story with the ABC, John revealed that his finances were recently overrun by his younger sister. By falsifying a doctor’s letter claiming John could not read and write, his sister was able to gain financial control through the public trustee.

“She’d done it basically just to obtain all the money, and yet I’m somebody who can manage money, and she can’t”, John said. His sister has since taken control of hundreds and thousands of dollars.

John now struggles to afford the necessities of life, including basic costs for medicines. “I need help, but I can’t get help”, John added.

It’s a familiar story for groups such as the Queensland Aged and Disability Advocacy. Their chief executive, Mr Geoff Rowe, believes situations such as John’s are commonplace.

“People choose, generally, someone that they know, someone that they trust, to be their power of attorney or their guardian,” Mr Rowe said. Therefore financial abuses are “most likely to have control of the purse strings”.

Mr Rowe explained that financial abuse generally begins with smaller amounts of money. In worst-case scenarios, the elderly can lose major assets such as homes and cars.

“We’re seeing more and more where the family home is being taken over by children of the individual for their own purpose, rather than the best interest of the adult person that they’re supposed to be supporting”, Mr Rowe added.

Advocacy groups have welcomed the move towards a royal commission into financial abuse, which targets elderly and disabled Australians too.

“The broader Senate report came up with 30 recommendations, the royal commission being the first”, Mr Rowe commented.

Unfortunately for people like John, the damage has already been done. Certainly more needs to be done, to protect our oldest Australians.

What else can be done to protect Australia’s elderly? Do you think a royal commission would prevent this type of financial abuse?

*Name changed

  1. Unfortunately it is a sad reality. My parents were lucky that I looked after their affairs. If my brother had got his hands on their money they would have had nothing. My mother even gave me her bankbook for safe keeping. That was when I knew something was wrong.

  2. One step to possibly remedy this could be for an independent assessment of the elderly person’s general health and mental capacity before allowing the assigned Power of Attorny holder to actually take over their financial affairs.

    • I also have an enduring power of attorney signed with my will but the issue seems to be unscrupulous use of these documents. I feel safe that my daughter wouldn’t do this but it sounds like not all can be trusted.

  3. Lesley  

    The Public Trustee has a lot to answer for. It seems to hinder more people than it helps.

    • Money is simply a useful form of exchange. Who wants to swap a sheep for a sack of cabbages?
      1 Timothy 6 : 10 KJV For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with.

  4. This is very common, I worked in an aged care for 5 yrs and I Hv seen n heard it all from the residents. How they are treated by their own children n other relatives because of money n properties . I don’t understand how children can act like this to their parents ??!!! And by doing so, they are also giving their parents’ money to their partners .its beyond me, I pray🙏🏼that my children never go into that kind of evilness .

  5. This needs to be addressed now. We are encouraged to set up Power of Attorney, and indeed it makes good sense. Of course you will trust family to do the right thing in most cases – some will already know who can’t be trusted – but greed is a terrible thing. It is beyond me how anyone could betray the trust given to them in this way, but sadly if happens more often than we know. How ironic that the very system supposed to protect us is so easily exploited by the unscrupulous.

  6. That is a terrible thing to do to a family member. I looked after my Fathers affairs when he was alive also, he knew he could trust me. When he went into an aged care home he also gave me his bank books and other such items to take care of which I did. Money can do strange things to some people.

  7. There needs to be strong legislation in place that allows prosecution of those who use PofA to steal others money. Nursing homes go unpaid, houses get sold and there is often absolutely nothing other concerned relatives or even the individual themselves can do about it.

    • You can get a joint power of attorney , e.g.a relative and a solicitor. The legal fees for this sort of thing are well worth while. There are matters which the average person may not be aware of, and it is important that everything is done legally to protect the relative from making a mistake.

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