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Financial abuse – know the signs

Financial abuse of the elderly is a serious and growing problem. Many vulnerable older people become dependent upon others – family, friends or others – to help them manage their day-to-day activities. Sadly in some cases their trust is abused, putting them at risk of harm.

Erica Norris

In one recent case, a Northolt pensioner was financially and emotionally abused by a family friend, 35-year-old Erica Norris.

Norris and her associate Wayne Chuter persistently harassed the man into handing over large amounts of cash, leaving him with very little money to live on.

An Ealing Council employee spotted signs of financial abuse, so in partnership with the police, the council launched an investigation.

Live savings wiped out

They found that Norris and Chuter had befriended the man specifically to exploit him; their abuse even included taking over his home. They would take him to cashpoints to withdraw money.

This has had a devastating impact on the victim – his life savings have disappeared. Perhaps worst of all is the emotional impact, as the crime was committed by someone he knew and trusted.

Wayne Chuter

There is now a Brentford County Court injunction banning Norris and Chuter from entering or being in any sheltered housing blocks in Northolt or Greenford.

The injunction, which has been in place since August this year, means the two could be arrested if they breach its terms. It will remain in force until July 2020.

Signs to look out for

Indications that financial abuse may be occurring include:

  • A sudden change in the victim or carer’s living conditions.
  • The victim’s inability to pay bills, or an unexplained shortage of money.
  • Unexplained withdrawals from the victim’s bank accounts.
  • The victim becomes suddenly cut off from family and friends.
  • Abrupt changes to a will or other financial documents.

How can you help?

Victims may be too embarrassed or frightened to report the crime themselves, so we need the whole community to help. You can do that in two ways.

Firstly, get to know your elderly neighbours. Some older people feel isolated from their family and friends. Becoming more connected in their community can help reduce the risk of exploitation occurring, and you’ll feel good for doing something positive.

Secondly, please report any suspicions you may have that someone in your neighbourhood is being exploited. You can get support and advice from Ealing Council’s adult social services team on 020 8825 8000. Contact the police about any incidents on 101, or 999 in an emergency.

Click here to find more information about financial abuse and what you can do about it.

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