In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) is urging everyone to trust their gut and back their intuition when identifying economic abuse of older people.
BNZ General Manager Customer Assist, Martin King, says, “Sadly, so many of our elders are subject to financial and economic exploitation and abuse. We’re urging all New Zealanders to watch out for elder economic abuse, and to trust their gut when something doesn’t seem right.”
Customers affected by elder economic abuse are supported by the BNZ Economic Harm team, which provides specialist assistance to customers in vulnerable situations, including domestic and partner abuse and economic exploitation.
King says elder abuse makes up around 12% of the total cases dealt with by the team, and of all the customers aged 65 or older, nearly two-thirds of them involve abuse or coercion over the customer.
“Elder economic abuse is on a scale, often starting out quite small, for example, refusing a grandparent access to their grandkids without first paying for the petrol for the journey.
“At the other end you have significant cases, like one recently we saw where a terminally ill customer was being financially abused by her adult son who had mental health issues. The son would emotionally manipulate and coerce her into giving over her credit card and internet banking details and send him money.
“The customer wanted to support her son, but the pressure was becoming overwhelming, and she started to feel anxious about her relationship with him. Our support team were able to work with her to give her options, including involving other family who could help her manage, and changing her enduring power of attorney.
“With our help the customer is still able to support her son, but on her terms and without him having unlimited access to her internet banking or credit card,” says King.
Elder economic abuse can be particularly harmful, as Age Concern data shows that 84% of cases involve a family member as the abuser. The victim often doesn’t want to damage the relationship with their family member, meaning it goes unreported.
“We know from experience how difficult it can be for people, but in every single case the best way to get on top of the problem is to talk to their bank as soon as possible.
“This is why we’re asking New Zealanders to trust their gut on elder abuse. If it doesn’t seem right then it’s likely a sign that something is amiss,” says King.
This goes for both victims and the families or friends of victims.
“We know for a lot of people they will see themselves in this situation, so we urge you to call your bank to discuss what can be done.
“For family and friends, it something doesn’t feel right, talk to them about it. Urge them to contact their bank for assistance or talk to organisations like Age Concern who can help support you and them through it,” says King.