Men are three times more likely to report financial abuse of the elderly to Police than women
Men are almost twice as concerned about the risk of their elderly relatives being scammed or financially abused as women are.
Law firm Ridley & Hall polled 2,000 Brits about financial abuse of the elderly, and found that 25% of men already feared that an elderly relative was vulnerable to financial abuse. Only 16% of women had the same suspicions. Men were also more likely to have concerns that a relative or carer could be in a position to financially exploit an elderly relative: 33% of men versus just 22% of women respondents.
Sarah Young, director Ridley & Hall comments: “I was surprised to find that men were markedly more involved with the financial welfare of the older generation than women. This makes me wonder if financial abuse is far more widespread than we know already, if women are simply not as vigilant as men.”
“Financial abuse by family, friends or carers can be really hard to recognise because it tends to start out as legitimate transactions only to then escalate over time. Even when there are indications of consent, such as a signed document or an apparent gift, these may not be what they seem. But it is often difficult to spot the point where it has crossed the line into abuse.”
Financial abuse of the elderly often includes:
- Being pressurised to lend money to a relative or friends.
- Being charged excessive amounts of money for services.
- People frequently requesting small amounts of money from an elderly relative.
- Family members moving into an elderly relative’s home without their consent and without a prior agreement on sharing costs.
- Pressurising an elderly relative into signing over their house or property.
- Taking money, cashing a cheque or using credit or debit cards without permission.
- Pressurising an elderly relative into changing a will.
- Someone else taking charge of en elderly relative’s benefits and not giving them all their money.
Taking active steps
The survey revealed that 31% of men had already taken steps to protect the assets of an older relative, whereas only 21% of women claimed the same.
Men were also three times more likely to report their concerns to the police or other authorities; 26% of men claimed to have done so, as opposed to just 9% of women.
Sarah Young comments: “Financial abuse of the elderly has a profound emotional impact on victims and their families. It is an extremely serious issue that should be more widely addressed. Financial abuse can be anything from frequently requesting small amounts of money to being pressured into signing over ownership of a house. We are now even beginning to see a rise in what is known as ‘predatory marriages’ – where someone cons an older person into marrying them without their friends and family being aware of it, purely for financial gain.
“Clearly, men are far more likely to speak up when they notice, for example, unusual activities in the bank account of an elderly relative. I was surprised to learn that this was a full third of men who had taken this action; significantly more than the 18% of women who had done the same.”
Sarah stresses that being vigilant is always a positive thing, since abuse is rarely reported or even detected by the victim: “I am not surprised that a significant amount of people have felt the need to take steps to protect an elderly relative. At Ridley & Hall, I am most often instructed by a family member who suspects abuse, rather than the victim. Sadly, they are usually unaware of what has happened. In many cases, the issue is only identified once the victim has died and relatives become concerned that their assets have been dissipated.
“These findings do make me wonder whether financial abuse is vastly under reported by women especially. Certainly, I believe the issue deserves more attention, and we have good reason to suspect that the cases we see are only the tip of the iceberg.”
For further comments or a full copy of the survey, please contact Christina Savage.
Director, RTS Media
In the United Kingdom (UK) government guidance document ‘No Secrets’, financial abuse is defined as ‘theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits’ (Department of Health and Home Office, 2000: Section 2.7, p. 9). However, it must be kept in mind that there is no standard definition of financial abuse, nor does the term have any legal status in the UK.
Research undertaken by Age UK in 2015 found that reporting rates of financial abuse varied by ‘perpetrator’. Reporting in this context included not only formal referral but informal ‘talk about it’. In a multinational study of European women aged 60+, rates of reporting went from 37.2% for abuse by a partner or spouse to 49.6% for an adult child, then 59% in the case of a neighbour to 81.3% for abuse by a paid caregiver or home help. This suggests that reporting is more frequent for less intimate relationships and conversely less common for abuse in the closest relationships.
Research by Age UK in 2015 found that on average, the best estimate for the UK is that between 1 and 2 per cent of people aged 65 or over in the United Kingdom today have suffered (or are currently suffering) financial abuse since turning 65. For estimation of numbers of those older (65+) people living in the community in the UK, there is no strong reason given in the literature to change the original CR/DH study estimate of 1.2%,12 which would mean approximately 130,000 people living in the community aged 65+ in the UK have suffered financial abuse at some point since turning 65.