My mother’s pension was being stolen every week

Financial abuse is often inflicted on vulnerable people who have diminished capacity to manage their affairs, and on those who are at risk of financial manipulation, including people living alone, divorced or separated, and those with disabilities. The elderly, especially those who have accumulated wealth, are very vulnerable. In 2006, children of the elderly in Britain stole almost £3 million from their parents. The rate of frauds on older people is enormous, with only a minute percentage reported. Detective Joe Roubicek, investigated more than 1,000 cases of financial fraud and exploitation of elderly Americans, and outlines some of these in his blog Financial Abuse of the Elderly. Little wonder that financial abuse of the elderly is labelled the crime of the 21st century.
It can be as simple as taking money from a person’s purse, and continuous theft of money in this way can result in destitution. Some years ago, I became aware that my mother’s pension was being stolen every week. She was over 80 and living alone. The abuse began with a few Euro, and finally escalated to the theft of her entire pension. I noticed that something was wrong when my ‘pocket money’ of €5 per week was reduced to 5 cents. I became worried and searched her handbag to discover that she only had a few cents. Eventually, I took over the collection of her pension.
Financial abuse is usually perpetrated by people the victim trusts, including relatives, carers, friends, and neighbours. Joe Roubicek outlines one case study where a caretaker took tens of thousands of dollars from an elderly couple. Remarkably, because they liked and relied on the abuser, they refused to press charges.
Roubiceck’s case studies show how simple it is for abusers to persuade the elderly to give them control of their money. It is not unusual for elderly people to allow carers or favourite relatives to use of their credit or ATM card, and familiar predators can easily persuade elderly relatives for permission to use their names to get credit. Some abusers take advantage of old people by moving into their homes on the pretext that they will look after them and keep them company. Once ensconced, they pressure them to give gifts, trick them into paying for work that is never done, or persuade them to invest in bogus business opportunities or lottery swindles.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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