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Caring for our aging communities

Elder financial abuse is a complex and sensitive issue with potentially life changing consequences for the older person and their families. Financial institutions like ANZ have an important role to play in helping to identify elder abuse, support at-risk customers and raise awareness of the issue.


Unfortunately, we see examples of elder abuse happening far too often. It’s estimated 6 per cent of Australians have been the victim of elder abuse and, due to our aging population, this is expected to increase over time.


“The types of abuse can range from a person spending money without permission, forging a person’s signature, coercing them to sign a document or controlling their money.”


Recent Victoria Police data show family violence against people aged 65+ has increased by 34 per cent since 2016 with more than 5,000 reports made in 2020 alone.


Elder abuse, which can include financial abuse, is a form of family violence. However, the harm from this abuse is not just financial and can also cause psychological and even physical damage if a person’s access to basic needs are not met.


And while it can happen to anyone, there are certain people who are more at risk of elder abuse – people living alone or who might be isolated, people with a disability, people with low financial literacy and those experiencing language or cultural barriers.


The types of abuse can range from a person spending money without permission, forging a person’s signature, coercing them to sign a document or controlling their money.


All frontline staff at ANZ are required to undertake training to help them identify and support customers who may experience circumstances that increase their risk of financial abuse.


Now, Victoria Police is leading a trial to strengthen how we as a community can identify and respond to elder abuse, including financial harm.


ANZ is participating in the trial through its Mornington Peninsula branches, where branch managers have been engaged with Police and local community organisations to share insights and raise awareness of these complex issues.


ANZ Senior Retail Performance Manager Mark Davis says the trial educates branch staff about the serious nature of elder abuse and how to identify and prevent harm.


“It’s important for our people to be able to support customers through many forms of hardship and that includes any form of financial abuse.”


Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh says the banking industry has well developed processes in place to prevent and assist customers impacted by financial abuse.


“I encourage anyone concerned about themselves or others to contact your bank,” she continues.

Looking out for customer wellbeing


An elderly customer received a large sum of money from the sale of a property. Red flags were raised when ANZ noticed the funds were being used quickly and the transactions were unusual for this customer. It was suspected a family member had been using the customer’s account without their knowledge.


The bank made attempts to speak with the family member to clarify the transactions following unsuccessful attempts to contact the customer. Concerns remained that the customer was potentially the victim of abuse so ANZ took steps to secure the account. The bank contacted the police to report these concerns and recommend a welfare check for the customer.


The subsequent police investigation resulted in a referral to the Public Advocate. Following an investigation, the State Trustee and Guardian were ultimately appointed as administrator for the customer’s financial affairs, removing the risk of further abuse by the family member.

Staying on top of staying safe


There are a number of ways to ensure you, your family and friends can stay safe and remain vigilant against elder abuse.


  1. Always protect your bank and financial cards, cheque books and other important documents. Never hand over a PIN or password to anyone.
  2. If someone asks for money, discuss it first with a trusted family member or friend.
  3. Talk to your bank about setting up direct debits and pre-authorised bill payments. Consider who has third-party authorisation over your accounts and ensure they are trusted.
  4. Keep track of your bank accounts, investments and other assets.
  5. Put in place arrangements, like power of attorney, for how your money and property will be handled if something happens to you or you can no longer communicate your wishes effectively.
  6. Always read contracts and other documents carefully and never sign anything under duress, seek legal advice when in doubt or contact police if you think you are being abused.


The major banks have been working together to develop industry guidelines for responding to financial abuse, including elder financial abuse. These guidelines provide a framework for raising awareness and ensuring consistent approaches to helping customers at risk.


Jo McKinstray is Customer Advocate at ANZ


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