Weasels rip­ping off el­derly

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

There are en­e­mies among us and it is up to fam­i­lies, friends and neigh­bours to be vig­i­lant to de­feat their evil in­ten­tions.

The en­e­mies are the lowlife weasels rip­ping off el­derly peo­ple.

Though in re­cent weeks I have kept this col­umn light­hearted, this week I am mak­ing an ex­cep­tion.

You see, I’ve been delv­ing into the chill­ing sub­ject of fi­nan­cial el­der abuse, both by fam­i­lies and by un­scrupu­lous crooks – some pos­ing as trades­men.

I’ve learnt a thing or two. The first is that Age Con­cern is largely cor­rect that rip­ping off the el­derly is a fairly easy thing to get away with.

All you do is bor­row money for them with some cock-and-bull story and never pay it back, or lu­di­crously over­charge for a ser­vice like house-paint­ing.

Ei­ther that, or you take their money af­ter se­cur­ing an en­dur­ing power of at­tor­ney.

The po­lice will more likely than not call it a civil mat­ter, es­pe­cially as if it is within a fam­ily. Even if they think a crime has been com­mit­ted, old peo­ple of­ten make poor wit­nesses eas­ily shred­ded by slick de­fence lawyers, so the chances of charges be­ing laid are small.

Even if a per­son, through the tire­less ef­forts of fam­ily, gets some jus­tice, it is likely to come late, be the equiv­a­lent of a slap with a limp let­tuce leaf, and not re­sult in the money coming back.

Take the re­cent ex­am­ple of Welling­ton real es­tate agent Pat Wil­liam Walker, who ripped off a 92-year-old el­derly woman of her life sav­ings. He did it in 2007. He’s been sen­tenced to home de­ten­tion and been or­dered to pay repa­ra­tion.

Jus­tice. Only he’s bank­rupt and she died two years ago.

I’m not a Sen­si­ble Sen­tenc­ing Trust ad­vo­cate, but this kind of thing makes me want to set up an AP to make reg­u­lar do­na­tions. So what can we do? First, preven­tion is key. Once money has gone, the chances of get­ting it back are slim.

Fam­i­lies

must

be vig­i­lant. If you have a ra­pa­cious fam­ily mem­ber, keep tabs on their re­la­tion­ship with Mum.

Yes, sin­gle women more of­ten fall vic­tim. Ditto non­fam­ily mem­bers get­ting close.

Neigh­bours and friends can play a part too.

Don’t turn a blind eye. Act, if you think a weasel is at work.

Age Con­cern is a staunch ad­vo­cate for the el­derly, and can be enor­mous help in end­ing an abu­sive sit­u­a­tion, with or with­out the po­lice be­ing in­volved.

Fam­i­lies must work hard to make this hap­pen.

Banks have pledged to train staff to be vig­i­lant for signs of el­der abuse. If they fail, they can be chal­lenged to help undo the dam­age, in­clud­ing by mak­ing pay­ments.

The same goes for other busi­nesses.

Walker worked for the Pro­fes­sion­als real es­tate agency. They stumped up $70,000 to his vic­tim.

Get­ting the po­lice to act can be harder. Ex­pect to have to gather ev­i­dence your­self.

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