An elderly woman whose son sold her house out from underneath her to fund an overseas trip and a holiday home is among countless vulnerable Victorians who have been subjected to financial elder abuse, the State Trustees says.
State Trustees Chief executive officer Craig Dent, who was in Ballarat on Wednesday, said financial elder abuse was “one of the most under-reported crimes” in the state.
A study commissioned by the State Trustees last year revealed 10 per cent of respondents from the Grampians knew a person they suspected to be a victim of financial abuse.
In one case referred to the State Trustees for investigation, an elderly woman was left penniless after her eldest son convinced her to sell up and move in with him.
Mr Dent said the son went onto spend the entire proceeds from the house – save for a portion allocated to build a granny flat. His cash splash included a new car, holiday home and an overseas trip.
“About 12 months after all this happened his marriage broke down and they had to sell that place. He moved into a smaller place, his wife went and lived separately with the kids and his mother was sitting there with no cash to get anything else.”
Men – particularly the eldest son – made up the majority of perpetrators, according to the State Trustee’s study.
Because victims were often related to their abuser, they were unlikely to pursue charges, Mr Dent said.
“The ramifications of financial abuse are quite profound and in most cases most of the money when it’s stolen is spent on things that aren’t tangible so you can’t recover them,” he said.
“Often, which was the case in this particular circumstance, the mother was pleading with us not to pursue it because ultimately while she knew and understood what had happened, she valued the relationship with her son and particularly with her grand kids more than what had occurred, and she was fearful she would be isolated.”
This month the State Trustees launched a free service where people can lodge documents relating to their wills and/or power of attorney.
The Victorian Wills and Power of Attorney Registry is designed to curb elder abuse by ensuring a safe place for people to register their will.