Protecting yourself against financial abuse

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Written by Natalie Eden, Private Client Adviser, UniSuper Advice

What can you put in place to ensure it won’t happen to you or your loved ones?

Award-winning journalist John F. Wasik once stated that elder financial abuse could become the crime of the 21st century. So how does it actually happen?

Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of a person’s money and/or resources. Generally, victims are in an older demographic and they’re usually taken advantage of by those they trust most.

Financial abuse can occur in many forms, including:

  • taking money or property
  • forging a person’s signature
  • getting a person to sign a deed, Will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion or under influence
  • using the person’s property or possessions without permission, or
  • promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through.

Managing your finances can be challenging at the best of times, requiring knowledge, skill and judgement. With a bit of planning, it’s possible to safeguard your money now and into the future. Here are some actions you can take.

Organise your important paperwork.

Having an estate plan is important at any age, but particularly as you get older due to the risk of becoming unwell with age. You can’t predict what’s going to happen, but you can plan ahead.

Legal documents—like powers of attorney—will allow you to give financial control to someone you know and trust if you become too sick to make decisions for yourself. Wills allow you to set out who can inherit your wealth when you die. It’s important to seek qualified legal advice when preparing and storing such documents.

Stay alert—guard against fraud.

After working for a lifetime, it’s more important than ever to be aware of how quickly scams and fraud can separate you from your hard-earned money.

Things to look out for:

  • Offers that look too good to be true—‘guaranteed returns’ and ‘no-risk’
  • Family pressuring you to give money, act as guarantor or hand over control of your wealth or property
  • Tradespeople or sales representatives asking for payment up front before providing goods and services
  • Requests for your personal banking information or money.

If in doubt, check the Government’s Scamwatch service. If you’re feeling pressured and at risk, call the police.

Stay informed and in control.

Understanding your financial situation ensures you know how your financial future is looking and helps reduce the risk of financial loss or mismanagement.

Keep on top of your financial position by understanding how much you’ll need in retirement, monitoring and structuring your money appropriately and knowing where it’s located.