Figures reveal scale of elderly financial abuse

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New figures have revealed that one in five older people in Northern Ireland claim to have suffered some sort of financial abuse.

The research has shed light on the plight of pensioners across the Province who have fallen prey to thieves and fraudsters.

The findings, revealed by Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Older People, suggest 21% of people aged 60 and over (more than 75,000 people) have been affected.

The commissioner Eddie Lynch said the research is “the very first time” someone has tried to capture the scale of the problem in Northern Ireland.

Some victims claim they have been tricked into buying or selling items, while others say they have had unexplained incidents when money or possessions had disappeared.

As part of the study, 1,025 people were interviewed to produce a statistically-representative sample of older people across Northern Ireland by age, gender, and region.

Key findings show that:

• 7% of older people have experienced problems relating to money or possessions, including cash disappearing, demands for bills that had already been paid, or people continually asking about money, making them feel uncomfortable.

• 6% reported issues when it came to buying or selling goods, with some feeling tricked or pressured into buying something they later regretted. Others believed they had been tricked or pressured into selling a valuable possession for less than it was worth, while some felt a care-giver had overcharged them for their services.

• 4% said they had experienced problems in relation to charitable giving, such as being scammed into giving money to a bogus charity. Others felt they had been persuaded to contribute beyond their means to charities.

• 3% of respondents said they had experienced coercion to sign documents and/or fraudulent use of their signature.

• 1% stated that family or friends had used pressure, intimidation of punishment to try and get their money.

The findings – set to be announced today at the Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland conference in Antrim – suggest that incidences of financial abuse are highest in Ards and North Down (32%) and lowest in Causeway Coast and Glens (9%).

Belfast, at 21%, reflected the average for Northern Ireland as a whole.

NI’s Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch said he was “shocked and saddened” by the numbers involved.

“I have seen the devastating impact that financial abuse can have on older people,” he added.

“Aside from the financial loss itself, this crime affects the emotional wellbeing of older people, bringing with it feelings of betrayal, embarrassment and fear. Over the next four years of my term I am committed to further examining this issue.”

Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland director Veronica Gray urged people to report financial abuse whenever they suspected it, adding: “Financial abuse can ruin an older person’s life.

“As well as depriving them of money or treasured possessions, it can leave people with feelings of shame, guilt or betrayal – especially if the crime is committed by a family member, as is often the case.”

Action on Elder Abuse operates a confidential helpline (080 8808 8141), offering advice and support on all aspects of elder abuse.