Financial Abuse of Vulnerable People
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What is Financial Abuse?
As people live for longer, they can require more and more assistance with day to day tasks, such as shopping and banking, which means that carers and family members are likely to be in a position of trust. We have focussed in this article upon the financial abuse of elderly people, although any vulnerable people, such as people with learning difficulties, can be open to financial abuse.
Whilst the vast majority of arrangements of trust with carers or family members are not problematic, financial abuse can and does occur.
Financial abuse can arise in many ways, and the following are just a few examples:
- spending someone else's money as if it were your own, such as buying shopping using an older person's money;
- telling an older person a "hard-luck" story to persuade them to hand over cash;
- persuading an older person to change their will;
- forging an older person's signature on documents; or
- using an older person's account to pay your own bills.
A lot of financial abuse takes place within families, for example where one sibling will take financial advantage of elderly parents.
What can you do?
If you suspect that a friend, neighbour or relative has been financially abusing someone you know, this could be a criminal matter in the first instance, and the police should be contacted. The police will decide if the abuser can be prosecuted although the police would not necessarily be able to recover any money that had been taken.
If there is not enough evidence for the police to become involved, it may still be possible to bring a civil claim against the abuser for the return of the money. This is where we can help. The vulnerable person could appoint someone else to bring the claim on their behalf, and to give instructions on a day to day basis to solicitors.
How to prevent further Financial Abuse
If financial abuse has already taken place, you may wish to take steps to protect your loved one from any further abuse. In these circumstances it is possible to apply to the Court of Protection to make decisions on their behalf. The Court of Protection can grant powers to make decisions about finances, as well as other aspects of someone's life.
An application to the Court of Protection can be made on an emergency basis if necessary.
How we can help
At Samuels Solicitors, based in Devon, we have a wealth of experience of dealing with these types of dispute. We can assist you with making applications to the Court of Protection, as well as bringing civil claims for the return of money or possessions which have been taken from a vulnerable person.
Contact us today for a free discussion about how we can help.