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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 15:33 GMT
Warning over theft from elderly
Elder abuse generic
More than 2m was reported stolen to the helpline in 2006
More needs to be done to stop elderly people having their money stolen by those who are supposed to be caring for them, a charity has warned.

Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) says more than a quarter of the 3,000 calls it received in 2006 were about financial abuse - mostly from family members.

More than 2m was reported as coerced or stolen from older people, it said.

Some 53% of theft, fraud and deception cases were blamed on the children of the victims.

Most of the victims were women in their 80s or above and, in most cases, it was sons or daughters who were accused of trying to steal, defraud or coerce money from their elderly parents.

We'd like to see older people acknowledge the issue to realise that they are not alone

Examples included a daughter who collected her mother's pension, taking 20 from it each week, and three daughters and a son who took their mother to the local bank and forced her to withdraw more than 5,000.

Houses were also sold or taken without the consent or full awareness of the elderly person, the charity said.

Kay Pitman, who has multiple sclerosis, was the victim of theft at the hands of a carer who was employed by the local authority via an agency.

The carer consistently took money from the elderly woman's hand bag before a secret camera revealed what was going on, leading to her being jailed for two years.

"I really trusted her, I thought she was a really nice girl," said Mrs Pitman.

Regulations and safeguards

"Every day I thought money was disappearing from my bag. I was quiet every day.

"I was going off my head - I thought I must be going mad."

Daniel Blake, an AEA spokesman, said that, while getting to the bottom of family disputes over money could be difficult, more safeguards were needed for vulnerable elderly people.

"Regulations and safeguards that are employed by financial institutions are incredibly lax and open to exploitation and abuse," he told BBC News.

"We'd like to see older people acknowledge the issue to realise that they are not alone, to not be ashamed, to not be embarrassed, and to actually accept that there are people there who can help them."

'Complex area'

Stewart Dickey, of the British Bankers' Association (BBA), said AEA's comments about lax controls were misleading and would "cause unnecessary worry for customers".

"This is also a very complex area for, unfortunately, a loving gesture by an elderly parent in favour of one child can be seen as coercion by another member of the family," he said.

"However, we do agree with the AEA in advising older people that they need not be ashamed to seek help. If they are concerned about their banking arrangements in any way, we would urge them to not hesitate in talking to their bank."

AEA is also calling on the government and local councils to make tackling financial abuse of the elderly a priority.

Undercover footage of one of the thefts

Pledge to end NHS elderly abuse
20 Apr 06 |  Health

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