Dementia patient ‘coerced’ out of $60,000 to fund gambling binge in suspected NT financial abuse cluster

March 21, 2018

In a community as small as Darwin, bank tellers know regular customers by name.

So when an elderly client with dementia entered her local bank with someone staff had never seen before and asked to withdraw $60,000, it raised red flags.

Unbeknownst to the woman’s family, a friend had allegedly coerced the “vulnerable” victim into handing over the money, which was later used to fund a gambling binge at a Darwin casino.

The ABC can reveal it is one of seven reports relating to suspected financial abuse, flagged by Australia’s big banks with NT elder abuse services in just five months.

Each incident, identified between October 2017 and February 2018, involved different clients.

The ABA’s Anna Bligh wants new reforms put in place by the end of the year.

In another case, a client with dementia was able to withdraw $100,000 because bank staff did not have access to updated power of attorney documents that would enable them to confirm her condition or determine if a second party had been delegated control over her finances.

It is the first time Top End banking staff have come forward with their concerns, something advocates attribute to strengthened communication lines between banks and elder abuse services in the absence of wider reforms.

Banks ‘hamstrung’ in acting

Alarmingly, the data only details instances where concerns have been reported by banks to the NT Council of the Ageing.

That means it is not known if there have been further instances where concerns have been raised internally, or if suspected cases have gone undetected.

Currently, anyone can present a power of attorney document to a bank, without tellers having access to real-time information as to whether it is valid, or has been superseded by a new set of instructions.

There is also no central reporting authority for banks to refer concerns, meaning staff are often hamstrung in acting on suspected cases of financial abuse.

“Because it’s a family member, they’d rather be financially coerced into taking their money than losing contact,” NT Council of the Ageing CEO Sue Shearer said.

“That’s why that sort of abuse isn’t reported very often… we’re only hearing about it [recently] because of the banks.

“[But] the bank has no way of checking that this is what the person who owns the account wants. They can’t check a lot of the power of attorney information.”

It is a predicament Australia’s banking authority, the Australian Banking Association, is acutely aware of.

Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading here.

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