Elder abuse continues to rise in our community, and one form of abuse is fraud. Unfortunately, elderly people can be one of the most vulnerable groups within the community when it comes to fraud. In some cases, the person committing the act of fraud may also be of a similar age. Recently, there has been cases in the news of elderly people falling for fraudulent scammers.
William Harding – A Case of Fraud
In the first case, a man named William Harding fabricated a story to gain financial support from older women. The fraud charges came about when he when he created false relationships with two women in 2015. The women did not know about the other, and instead cultivated a deep friendship with Harding and lent him money when he asked. He created a story that he had inherited property from a deceased sibling and needed money to ship the property over to Australia. Combined, the women gave him $9800, and he promised to pay it all back. However, the truth includes no brother or property, and he only ever returned $250, and used the rest of the money to buy gifts for yet another lady.
Harding moved on, and in 2016 he was engaged to be married, and conned his fiancée into yet another fraud. In this case, he wanted to buy a house and his fiancée provided some funds for the purchase. Harding told her his usual story about his brother, but unlike in his previous cases, this time he disappeared. He left his fiancée having to pay a total of $7800 to break the agreement on the house and pay lawyers’ fees. Fortunately, police have caught him and he is now awaiting a court date to hear multiple fraud charges.
In another case, two men who are yet to be found and arrested, are sought by police due to their actions involving fraud. The men pose as construction workers, but do not do the work as promised and still threaten their victims for money. In the latest case, they offered to do a driveway job for an elderly man, who stated he would not pay until the job was completed. The men became angry, threatened the man and stole $1500. Police have stated that these men have gone door to door and seem to typically be targeting older people.
Finding Support and Seeking Help
Elder abuse, including fraud, have many forms. In a majority of cases, elder abuse is committed by family members, but the elderly can still be targeted by unscrupulous scammers. Elder abuse can be financial, emotional, physiological and physical. Unfortunately, many people do not tell others of the abuse as they are embarrassed and ashamed that they have been targeted. However, elder abuse is a crime and must be reported. If you believe someone is experiencing elder abuse, report immediately. In the case of financial abuse, the sooner the abuse is remedied, the less likely it is that the older person will lose all their assets.
Examples of elder abuse can include:
- unnecessary restrictions
- taking away their basic rights i.e. decision making
- pension stealing
- making financial decisions without permission
- making forced changes to the will
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
When someone is experiencing sexual abuse, they may begin to become distant. They may show signs of depression and begin to show signs of no longer trusting close people. They will become withdrawn and typically not their usual self. If you believe that someone is experiencing elder abuse or is a victim of fraud, you should contact police immediately. You can also call the Elder Abuse Hotline or start by talking to the victim. Discuss with them their options and provide them a safe place to talk about the abuse. Remember to be respectful and calm and to be encouraging and supportive.
How to protect the elderly from fraud
- Maintain open communication with the older person
- Take any concerns seriously
- Watch for changes in older person’s appearance or mood
- Recognise signs of financial abuse, such as unpaid bills or missing money
- The biggest risk factor for financial abuse is cognitive impairment in the older person. Ensure that the correct legal protections are in place
There are also many support services such as beyondblue and DVConnect that can also assist with elder abuse.
However, if you believe that you have experienced fraud or elder abuse, it is best to seek legal advice immediately. The sooner you seek help the easier it is to remedy the situation. Once assets are sold or spent, it is unlikely that they can be restored. If you suspect that a loved one is experiencing financial abuse, please contact us for a free, 10-minute phone consultation.