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  • Court cases stress need for elderly to be vigilant with money

    Financial abuse of the elderly in Nelson is widespread, with family members the most common perpetrators, Age Concern says. Jess Breeze, of Age Concern, said the organisation saw four or five new cases of elder abuse each week, and about half of them were incidents involving financial abuse. More often than not it is sons and daughters ripping off their parents and the misuse of their position of power of attorney."

    Mrs Breeze, Age Concern's elder abuse and neglect prevention adviser, said elder abuse was considerably under-reported due to victims being fearful of what might happen if they spoke up.
    The cases Age Concern dealt with were likely to be the tip of the iceberg, she said. Instances of elder abuse and taking financial advantage of elderly people were increasing as the aged population was rising.

    Mrs Breeze said older people often gave family members their PIN numbers or eftpos cards because they trusted them. Because they had provided the offender with that information, it was harder for offenders to be held accountable.

    She wanted to encourage people who thought they were being taken advantage of to report it or get in touch with Age Concern. "Exposing it is really important. Abuse is just not OK." Age Concern could also provide the elderly with information and advice on what steps to take to protect their finances, both legally and in a practical way, she said.

    The issue of financial abuse of the vulnerable and elderly was raised in Nelson this week, with two women being jailed for ripping off people they were supposed to be caring for. Earlier this year, Brenda Schwass-Arnold was convicted of 200 dishonesty charges in the Nelson District Court after fleecing her partner's mother, who has dementia, of $28,000.

    Another woman, Myrna Joseph was sentenced to 12 months' jail after she used the bank card of a bedridden woman she was caring for to pay for her own groceries and her car registration. Detective John Nicholls said the Schwass-Arnold case was the only one he had dealt with involving an elderly person while he had been in Motueka, but he was aware that financial abuse was a significant problem.

    Elderly people were often preyed on by people who took advantage of them and "fleeced them blind", and the consequences of such offending were devastating, he said. The money that was stolen was often never recovered, and victims often lost their entire life savings. In both cases in the Nelson court this the offenders had changed their names and had a history of similar offending.Mr Nicholls said it was common for people before the courts to change their names. Names from their mother or father or adopted names were often used as aliases.
    If people were concerned that an elderly relative was being ripped off, they should speak to their family lawyer to see if background inquiries could be made, he said. They should also speak to the police.
    Mr Nicholls said the Schwass-Arnold case was "a shocker", and people like her were very good at taking people into their confidence.

    The victim's son, Neill Cherry, who discovered the thefts of his mother's money, said it was thanks to Age Concern that he was able to make a formal complaint to the police, which led to Schwass-Arnold's conviction. "Without their help, I don't think it would have happened."
    For more information, visit www.ageconcern.org.nz .

    HOW OLDER PEOPLE CAN KEEP THEIR MONEY SAFE

    • Don't give cheques, credit and bank cards, PIN numbers or important documents to others. Keep them in a safe place.
    • Have clear written arrangements and instructions for those assisting with your finances.
    • Get receipts and check bank balances.
    • Review Enduring Powers of Attorney as things change.
    • Getting the property attorney to provide reports to another person is recommended.
    • Make a will and review it as circumstances change.
    • Take your time when making decisions.
    • Get legal advice when providing finance for a property, even if you intend to live with the owners.
    • Evidence of the fraud can be posted on this site-https://newzealandjustice.com/showth...tigating-fraud
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