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Fraud against the elderly

Media Release

05 November 1999

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

The latest research from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) highlights the vulnerability of elderly people to fraud, Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, said today.

"The impact of fraud on older people can be absolutely devastating." Senator Vanstone said.

"As a community, we encourage people to save for their retirement throughout their working life."

"But this can make older people attractive targets for investment fraud because they often have assets to invest."

"A simple fraud involving a relatively small amount of money can undermine a lifetime of hard work."

"No one is saying that older people are vulnerable to acts of fraud simply because they are old."

"However, the AIC research in its paper, Fraud and Financial Abuse of Older Persons, finds that dependency can be a major factor in financial abuse of the elderly with the extent of the problem ranging from improper use of an older person's money without his/her permission to forcing older persons to change their wills to benefit particular individuals such as health care providers or relatives."

"Fraud against the elderly can come in many guises."

"The AIC paper highlights a number of appalling examples of abuse of the elderly, such as:

  • A case in England in which a doctor is alleged to have murdered 15 elderly patients to secure benefits under their wills;
  • An investment adviser who defrauded his 83-year old client of more than $80,000;
  • A Victorian company which made improper use of funds pre-paid for funerals; and
  • Pensioners in New South Wales were defrauded by a group of people who encouraged the pensioners to have un-necessary repairs to roofing, insulation and electrical wiring"

"The AIC research highlights that the elderly are more vulnerable to telemarketing fraud than younger people and that the elderly are more vulnerable to being tricked into purchasing worthless remedies and cures for health conditions."

"The paper outlines a number of ways in which older people can be protected against fraud," Senator Vanstone said.

"Prevention is always the best cure. What is true about our health is also true about crime. Preventing fraud often only requires that we be aware that others might be trying to take advantage of us or our elderly relatives and be prepared to make some basic checks."

"It is also helpful if health care providers, lawyers, accountants, investment advisers, and banks are aware that elderly people can be the target of fraudsters and are prepared to go the extra yard to help protect elderly Australians from such abuse."