Katy Bourne, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex, has joined Action on Elder Abuse in urging older people and their families to learn how to spot the signs of financial abuse.
Data from the charity suggests that as many as 2,162 older people in Sussex may be at risk of financial abuse this year, including 813 in East Sussex alone.
Katy Bourne said: “Elder exploitation is growing as our population ages.
“In Sussex, fraud against our older and more vulnerable residents has robbed some older people of their entire life savings and left others destitute.”
She added: “The operational response from Sussex Police has been excellent. They developed Operation Signature to help protect and support those most at risk of fraud, and the model has been nationally recognised and is being adopted by other forces.”
Typical financial crimes perpetrated against older people include fraud, forgery or embezzlement, the misuse of proxy decision-making powers, and ‘doorstep crime’.
Action on Elder Abuse chief executive Gary Fitzgerald said: “Unfortunately, older people are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse and there are far too many people who seek to exploit them.
“Very often, the perpetrator is someone close to the older person, such as a relative or carer.”
He added: “Talking about things such as internet safety and ‘stranger danger’ is something we do routinely with our children.
“It’s about time we took the issue of abuse of older people just as seriously.”
The PCC and Action on Elder Abuse have said that older people can help keep themselves safe by using several precautions which include checking bank statements regularly, reducing how much money can be withdrawn, limiting the use of ‘chip and pin’, and being careful about who has access to them and their belongings.
In instances where an older person is unable to protect themselves from financial abuse, the charity advises that families look out for signs it is occurring.
These signs include changes in banking habits, inclusion of new names on the bank account, abrupt changes to wills and/or Power of Attorney, suspect signatures, and/or the disappearance of funds or possessions.
The charity is urging anyone who has concerns that they, or someone close to them, are being financially abused to call its confidential helpline on 080 8808 8141.
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