Greedy relatives ripping off retirees as Human Rights Commission issues guide on how to protect against fraud
BEN PIKE CAREERONE NATIONAL DEPUTY EDITOR
From: News Limited Network
July 30, 2013
THOUSANDS of retirees are being swindled out of their savings and kicked out of their homes by money-hungry relatives keen to cash in on their ageing parents' fear and confusion.
Deteriorating housing affordability and a growing sense of entitlement among spoiled children are cited as reasons for the growing trend called elderly financial abuse.
The trend has prompted the Human Rights Commission to release an official guide on how retirees can protect themselves from their own blood.
The average Australian couple over 65 is worth of $1.1 million, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show, and Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said as families have become richer they have become greedier.
"There are tragic stories of families ripping off their older family members," she said.
"The ageing population is like a bait to people who want to do this sort of thing.
"As we have more and more people reaching the age where they can access their super - more and more people are retiring in their 60s - the sharks are out there know this. I find that very repugnant.
"From the limited data we have available I estimate that thousands of elderly people would have been exposed to financial abuse from their relatives at some point."
Ms Ryan added that previous generations of Australian parents never suffered the same level of financial abuse because "our parents didn't have any assets".
"It's the general climate where people feel that they need more material assets than a previous generations and the cost of housing is becoming more unaffordable," she said.
"When I first learned about this financial abuse it was my motive to try to get some really accessible information into the hands of people and not wait until something bad happens."
House prices have risen nearly 150 per cent over the past decade while earnings have increased by just over 50 per cent, according to THE AMP-NATSEM Income and Wealth Report.
The Aged-Care Rights Service receives thousands of calls for help from distressed elderly people every year and CEO Russell Westacott said the problem is hidden because victims don't want to alert the authorities.
"Seventy-five per cent of the instances of financial abuse we get are related to family members," he said.
"Almost always there is someone in the family bullying mum or dad. Then they may even be bullying their other brothers or sisters to a point where they don't know what is going on."
Since the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit was established in February this year nearly 300 calls have been received and over 200 have related to abuse calls.
"Sons, daughters and spouses were identified as primarily responsible for abuse," an organisation spokeswoman said.
TOP 5 TIPS TO PROTECTING YOUR ASSETS
1. Get independent legal advice. Never sign any legal documents under pressure without getting
advice about the consequences of signing. You always have a right to get your own independent legal advice.
2. Know what is at stake. If you use your home as security for a loan, you risk losing your home and potentially being made bankrupt.
3. Think about whether your family or friends can repay money. This is important if you are thinking about acting as a guarantor, loaning money, or taking out a loan in your name for someone else to repay.
4. Get it in writing. If you give money to a friend or family member make it clear in writing whether you intend to give the money as a gift or whether you expect the money to be repaid.
5. Don't be afraid to say no. You always have the right to protect your own financial security by saying no.
Source: Your Rights at Retirement guide, The Human Rights Commission.
Anyone wanting a copy of the guide can contact the Office for Ageing on 1800 729 368.
Click for Updates, More Cases and Resources
Search LABELS for More Resources