Elderly Most At Risk Of Theft By Own Children

Greedy middle-aged sons and daughters are the people most likely to rob their parents of money, valuables and even their homes, according to a report today. The findings, published by Action on Elder Abuse, are based on a study of calls to the charity’s helpline last year.

They show that far from the family being a haven for the elderly, many pensioners are victims of their close relatives’ avarice and psychological cruelty. They are regarded as easy targets if they have disabilities or suffer dementia.

Other “financial abusers” include friends or paid carers coming into the home on behalf of local authorities, known as “Granny Groomers” because they ruthlessly target older people for their profit.

However, the report shows that 53 per cent of theft, fraud and deception was committed by the victim’s children.

Of 471 incidents analysed, £2 million in cash was reported as stolen or coerced from older people during a 12-month period, with 18 houses also being sold or taken without consent while the elderly person was in hospital or a care home.

A further 13 houses were given away without the full awareness of the owner, or after significant pressure, including blackmail.

Many victims were too scared to go ahead with the statements needed to mount a legal case against relatives.

A report last year from the Help The Aged charity suggested that as many as 500,000 elderly people may be neglected and abused in some way at any one time by carers or relatives.

Gary FitzGerald, the chief executive of the charity, said: “This is a horrendous state of affairs. It may seem inconceivable to most of us that a son or daughter could stoop to such appalling depths.

“Their parents belong to the generation that lived through the war and suffered hardship to bring up their families and it beggars belief that they can be treated so callously by their own families. Sadly, it is a truth that we all need to accept.”

The charity wants banks and building societies to put strategies in place to protect elderly customers.

The charity also calls on the Government to give adult protection the same legal status as child protection.

Mr FitzGerald said: “This would underpin services with proper investment and resources, and give professionals the legal powers they need to offer protection.

“We have to ask why Scotland can see the urgency for such legislation while the rest of the UK drags its heels.”

Action on Elder Abuse said that last year £2,108,236 was reported as stolen, defrauded, or coerced from elderly victims and 18 houses were sold or taken without consent, equivalent to £3,328,632 worth of property.

An additional 13 houses were given away under pressure, including blackmail, or without full awareness, equivalent to £2,404,012 worth of property.

The majority of victims were women, aged over 80.

The majority of perpetrators were sons or daughters aged 41 to 60.

The report says it is remarkably easy to gain control of an older person’s finances. Many high street banks require little or no paperwork to give control of someone’s bank accounts to a third party.

Campaigners for the elderly say even formal systems such as power of attorney, in which an elderly person gives another person the power to act on his or her behalf with regard to his or her property and financial affairs, and enduring power of attorney, in which power is given away if the elderly person becomes mentally incapable, are characterised by their “lack of regulation rather than as an excessive burden”. There is no standardised version of a power of attorney and it can be purchased from some high street stores.

Action on Elder Abuse has a freephone helpline open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.00pm on 080 8808 8141.