Unfortunately, some vulnerable adults become victims of abuse at the hands of those who seek to either take advantage of their lack of capacity or manipulate them for their own personal gain.
If you feel at risk, or are worried about the financial security of someone you love, taking immediate action to protect yourself or them should be your first step.
What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse can take many forms, but some common examples include:
- Taking money or property– This might be theft from a purse or taking more money from a cashpoint than authorised. It might also involve over-claiming of benefits by overstating the severity of the situation. It might mean taking away small items from the property without authority.
- Overcharging for services –Being asked to pay a large amount of money for simple tasks such as gardening or basic property maintenance.
- Forging signatures or documents– Where someone’s signature becomes more fragile, it might be easier to forge – perhaps on a cheque or even a will. Forged wills can sometimes result from family difficulties but sometimes fraudsters target lonely and vulnerable people who do not have any close relatives or friends. In these situations, there may be nobody to challenge the will as no-one knows the true wishes of the person who has died.
- Signing documents by coercing or influencing them to sign – Has someone been asked to sign a transfer of shares or a car? What about making a gift?
- Wrongful use of powers of attorney or court orders– Acting as an attorney means that someone must abide by the provisions in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and its Code of Practice. An attorney cannot use the money that belongs to the donor (other than in very limited circumstances) for anyone other than the donor of that power of attorney. They must keep all money separate and will need authority from the Court of Protection to make large gifts, transfer of property to family members and borrow money. However, mixing money in bank accounts or borrowing money can be financial abuse as this is also not permitted.
What should victims of financial abuse do?
Victims of such abuse are often reluctant to act against their abusers because they feel ashamed of having been taken advantage of, or because they do not want the abusers to withdraw their care and support.
If you, or someone you know, believes they have been a victim of financial abuse then you should consider whether to contact the police, adult social care, or the Office of the Public Guardian who may start their own investigations.
We’re here to help
If you feel your finances are unsafe under someone’s care or are worried about the financial security of a loved one, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We know it’s a tough subject to talk about, but with a helping hand from our specialist solicitors, we can stop the abuse and prevent it from happening in the future.
From assistance with care fees and contracts to Court of Protection applications and the drafting of statutory wills, our job is to identify the best solutions to safeguard your loved ones no matter how challenging the situation.
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It can be difficult to envisage a time when you’re not there to provide for your family. However, we are here to guide and support you with preparing a will so your wealth is protected for your loved ones into the future.
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