• Age UK report reveals 130,000 victims of Financial Abuse

Lawyers specialising in protecting elderly and vulnerable people say a new report highlights the  financial threats facing the rising number of people living with dementia.

The report by charity Age UK says there are around 300,000 older people dependent on others for help with their finances and an estimated 130,000 people aged over 65 who have been victims of financial abuse by fraudsters or even family members.

The figures also show that women are twice as likely as men to be victims of financial abuse in later life, with the majority being women aged 80 to 89 and living on their own, single or widowed.

Catherine Diamond from Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth in Chichester who specialises in protecting the elderly and vulnerable said: “People are living longer lives and that has significant consequences such as the rise in dementia and other conditions or circumstances, such as brain injury, which can affect the mental capacity of people to manage their own finances.

“So many people are still not planning ahead when it comes to how to manage their finances in the future.  While people are usually aware of scammers knocking on the door, many people do not realise that it is often family members who can cause the most financial problems for vulnerable people.

“Our own research shows that the vast majority of people want family members to look after their assets in the event of an illness like dementia (78%) but only 13% have put a lasting power of attorney in place to make sure that happens.”

Irwin Mitchell’s Planning for Later Life report also revealed that two thirds of people have not spoken to family members about how they might wish their finances and assets to be managed in the event that they cannot make their own decisions. While a fifth of the 1000 respondents said they weren’t sure whether they would trust a family member to look after their finances.

Catherine added: “There are steps people can take to prevent financial abuse of the elderly and vulnerable – and the earlier the better. However having Power of Attorney can also cause disputes amongst family and friends so it is important to ensure that the right legal advice is followed to ensure the best outcome   for that individual.

“Elderly people in general are fiercely independent, private about their finances and very proud but even the most sensible person can be fooled. It is important for pensioners to have greater knowledge of the signs and situations of potential abuse before they reach vulnerable stages so that they do not keep quiet or feel “foolish” but understand that this is a much wider issue. Talking about these issues with someone else is the first and right step. Some of our clients have been known to set up a sort of “neighbourhood watch” for themselves with friends, family and neighbours involved so that they can help as dementia takes hold.

“Any suspected financial abuse should be treated very seriously. Safe-guarding concerns can be raised with the Local Authority and if there is a Deputy or Attorney appointed who may be abusing their position, concerns can be raised with their supervising body, The Office of the Public Guardian. Any fraud or theft should also be reported to the police as they are criminal offences.”