Figures show more than 800 elderly people are likely to be suffering from financial abuse in East Sussex, according to a charity.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, is backing a charity campaign to help protect older people from financial abuse, joining Action on Elder Abuse and 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.
The charity says there are 135,632 people over the age of 65 living in East Sussex and that 813 of those are ‘likely to be suffering from financial abuse’.
Typical financial crimes perpetrated against older people include fraud, forgery or embezzlement. Doorstep crimes including bogus tradesmen and postal, phone or internet scams are also included.
The PCC and Action on Elder Abuse have said that older people can help keep themselves safe by checking bank statements regularly and tracking receipts, reducing how much money can be taken from an account at any one time, having a copy bank statements sent to someone trustworthy to check and limiting the use of chip and pin to control money.
They can also protect themselves from doorstep crimes by keeping important documents and valuables out of sight, never letting anyone into your home unless you can confirm their identity or they have made an appointment and only booking work on a house through trusted trader schemes.
The charity is also warning elderly people to treat anyone asking for financial details unsolicited with suspicion and note that banks will never ask you for your account number or pin details.
In instances where an older person is not in a position to protect themselves from financial abuse, such as suffering from dementia, the charity advises that families and loved ones stay vigilant to spot the signs that abuse may be taking place. These include:
•Signatures on official documents that do not resemble the older person’s own
•Changes in banking habits, such as large sums of money being withdrawn
•The inclusion of additional names on bank accounts
•Abrupt changes to, or the sudden establishment of, wills
•Sudden and unexplained transfers of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
•The unexplained disappearance of funds or possessions
•The deliberate isolation of an older person from friends and family, resulting in a carer having total control.
•The sudden introduction of a Power of Attorney document that places control with an unknown third party
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 which can offer support and advice and support on all aspects of elder abuse.
Gary Fitzgerald, Action on Elder Abuse chief executive, said, “Unfortunately, older people are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse and there are far too many people who seek to exploit them. Financial abuse can take many forms – it’s everything from carers or family pilfering money to phone scams and having Power of Attorney misappropriated. Very often, the perpetrator is someone close to the older person, such as a relative or carer.
“So we want to equip older people to protect themselves where appropriate and for those who love them to spot the signs that their older friend or relative may be being abused. 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.”
Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex, added, “Elder exploitation is growing as our population ages and as criminals see that fraud is more profitable and less risky than other crimes. In Sussex, fraud against our older and more vulnerable residents has robbed some older people of their entire life savings and left others destitute.
“Tackling elder exploitation is one of my top priorities. We have raised awareness of the threat to older people through the great work of my Elders’ Commission members who spoke to over 2,000 people across the county.
“I have been lobbying the Government to take account of demographics when calculating the amount of funding that is allocated to each police force, and to acknowledge the rise in crimes against the elderly.
“The operational response from Sussex Police has also 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.
“We have to wake up to the fact that older people are being targeted, they are being groomed and they are being exploited and abused by criminals and by family and carers. We don’t tolerate child abuse; neither should we tolerate elder abuse.
“I urge anyone who is being abused or suspects that a loved one may be at risk, to report it to the police.”