There are many ways in which people are financially abused

As in my mother’s case, abusers are cautious initially, and confine themselves to stealing a small amount of money or jewellery before moving on to more blatant and even violent abuse. Violent abuse includes forcing the elderly into selling their homes, or threatening to kick them out and render them destitute. Financial abusers work in secret. Abusive relatives or carers keep their victims in the dark about their financial situation, and withhold information about welfare benefits. Part of this deception can include forging signatures on pension cheques and legal papers like wills, or misusing power of attorney.
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia, those taking heavy medication, or those who suffer from memory loss and mental disorientation are easy targets. They simply cannot remember what happened when defrauded and are unable to distinguish between one document and another. They will generally sign anything put in front of them. These victims are manipulated to put their abusers’ names on bank accounts, giving them access to considerable wealth, which ultimately bankrupts them.
The elderly should be aware of the many scams fabricated to part them from their money. Mail scams are particularly powerful. Lottery and sweepstake letters emblazoned with the person’s name tell them that they have won an enormous amount of money. Of course, a purchase is necessary to avail of the attractive prize! Sometimes fake cheques are included to make the fraud more personal and attractive.
Computer scams leading to identity theft are particularly difficult to recognise. The scammers are looking for as much personal information as possible to help them steal a person’s identity, and gain access to bank accounts and credit cards. Identity theft is increasing at a significant rate in the USA, with more than 500,000 cases each year. Pension blog numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s licence numbers, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and medical card numbers are used to unlock caches of money or goods. Account numbers for telephone, electricity or gas bills are valuable to scammers.
On a daily basis, I get emails from sham webmail companies about so-called congestion ‘due to anonymous registration of webmail accounts’. They threaten to suspend my email account unless I send my username, password, date of birth, and resident country. I immediately delete them. But, others are very convincing. Sometimes, when entering a website or downloading a piece of information, you are asked to sign on, and give your email address and password. You may comply from force of habit, and unwittingly give someone the means of accessing your email account. This enables them to get further information such as bank details.
Recently I received a sham email, supposedly from my bank, sporting the bank’s logo, that convinced me to click on the link provided. This simple click exposed me to the Trojan virus, which remains hidden in computer systems and passes on passwords and codes to a remote computer, often in a distant country. Remember that banks never ask you to respond by email or to click onto a website. Many people fall into this devious trap. Users should consider protecting their computers with anti-viral software. Con artists also target elderly people through telemarketing fraud and predatory lending. They generally try to confuse the elderly into parting with their money for ‘worthwhile and once-off offers’. They try to complete the fraud quickly, before the elderly person can consult with relatives.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

Posted in abuse, financial abuse