The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

LETTER OF THE WEEK

I am afraid that an old friend is being robbed by her son

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QI help to care for an old friend of mine I have known for over 30 years. She is 82 and we both lost our partners within a year of each other, so we got together for meals and holidays. Unfortunat­ely she had a stroke a couple of years ago, and now lives alone close to me.

Because I look after her bills and bank account, I noticed that her son, who does most of her shopping, has started using her credit card to pay for this. However, I saw three withdrawal­s of £250 in less than a month. His sister, when I mentioned the first amount to her, questioned him but didn’t get a satisfacto­ry answer. She didn’t take it further for fear of upsetting him.

If he carries on like this he will burn through her savings in six months. I feel I should speak to him myself; I don’t want to interfere in a family affair, but I’m worried for my friend – and I have given her a fair bit of money over the past few years, so I’d be annoyed on my own behalf if he were taking that.

What should I do?

–Tony, Rutland

Dear Tony

A

You must speak to him at once. If your friend has delegated responsibi­lity for her affairs to you, whether formally or informally, then you have every right, even a duty, to do so. The fact that a portion of the savings involved were a gift from you gives you even greater justificat­ion to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

But you must follow the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Don’t make any accusation­s when you go through your friend’s bank statements with her son. Simply ask politely what these frequent large cash withdrawal­s were for, and listen without prejudice to what he has to say. But I have to agree with you, Tony – taking out £750 in just three weeks is, prima facie, suspicious. This man may have fallen into temptation.

If you aren’t satisfied with his explanatio­n, my advice is to fire a clear warning shot across his bows. Say you’ll be keeping an extremely close eye on the situation from now on and if you have any further cause for concern, you will simply refer the matter directly to social services.

Assuming he’s not an outand-out villain but just someone who’s temporaril­y mislaid his moral compass, that should snap him back onto the straight and narrow. But be prepared to follow through on your threat if there’s any more funny business at the cashpoint.

Of course, you would need to discuss that with your friend first: it’s her son we’re talking about. But as you’ve previously raised your concerns with her, at least the door to that difficult conversati­on is already ajar.

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