I was distressed to read the CBC news report about a 92 year old man who had basically been ripped off by his own children who had been draining his bank account.
Even more disturbing is that financial abuse of seniors is on the rise, and the likeliest perpetrators tend to be family members, usually an adult child or grandchild.
Martha Lewis of the BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support says the number is expected to rise as the population ages. Statistics Canada projections show that nearly 25% of the population will be over the age of 65 by 2031.
She says that the general public is not aware of how widespread this is.
“Grown children often believe they’re entitled to their parents’ money. They feel they’re going to inherit it anyway. So, why not help yourself early?”
Some elderly parents have reared financially dependent children who see nothing wrong with dipping into their parents’ savings or using their credit card.
Common forms of financial elder abuse
Financial elder abuse can take many forms. It may start with something small like a child charging their groceries on their parent’s credit card.
The most common forms of financial abuse are:
- Taking money for themselves without your permission
- Undue pressure to sell property or sign legal or financial documents you don’t fully understand
- Being tricked into selling or moving from your home
- Forced to make changes to your Will
- Misuse of Power of Attorney
- Forging signatures to obtain loans
- Fraudulent use of credit cards
According to Statistics Canada, 96% of financial abuse goes undetected. Often elderly people don’t realize they’re being taken advantage of until it’s too late. Most often cases are discovered after large amounts of their savings have gone missing.
What every older Canadian should know
Remember that your money and your property belong to you.
- Keep your financial and personal information in a safe place.
- Be very cautious about opening joint bank accounts or adding survivorship to your home.
- Also, be cautious about giving blanket Power of Attorney. If your child is not adept at managing their own finances, should they be in charge of their parents’?
- Keep in touch with a variety of friends and family so you don’t become isolated.
Pressuring someone for money, or the unauthorized use of someone’s money or property is illegal, but it can be very difficult to prosecute.
Some seniors can feel ashamed of their financial abuse and make excuses for the abusers’ behaviour. They may fear retaliation or punishment. They often feel like the should give money to their children.
No one wants to believe that someone they love and trust would be capable of financial abuse, but it happens all the time.
People can better protect themselves and their loved ones by being vigilant and well informed.