New tool to help detect financial abuse

Following a successful trial, Capacity Australia, with support from the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA), has released an online education tool to help bank staff combat rising financial abuse of vulnerable people.


Some estimates show that around 150,000 Australians over the age of 65 are subject to some form of financial abuse from family members or other people in their lives.


Those often identified as the perpetrator of financial abuse of people with dementia are:

  • Children 66.3 %

  • Other family members 16.5%

  • Friends 5.8%

  • Retail and sales staff 3.5%

  • Spouse/partner 3.5%

  • Strangers 2.3%

  • Neighbours 2.3%.

President of Capacity Australia, UNSW Associate Professor Carmelle Peisah, said financial abuse of people with cognitive impairment is growing, as is the rate of dementia in Australia.


“Financial abuse is a serious issue that needs to be stamped out wherever we can.


“Customer service employees in bank branches are on the front line in this fight and are ideally placed to help identify financial abuse early - or the risk of it - and do something about it.


“This learning tool will help staff understand the signs of those who are vulnerable as well as become familiar with signs and symptoms of dementia so they can spot customers who might be struggling with their banking transactions, or are being stood over by others and may need support,” she said.


ABA Chief Executive Officer, Steven Münchenberg, said financial abuse prevention was an ongoing focus for the banking industry.


“Banks want to equip their staff with the knowledge and skills to recognise and act on financial abuse. This tool will help educate bank staff who interact with customers face-to-face or on the phone. It will help banks which use the tool put the ABA’s industry guidelines on stopping financial abuse into daily practice.


“Trials of the tool with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank have shown almost 100% improvement in identifying financial abuse risk and what to do about it – in an approximate completion time of 15 minutes,” Mr Münchenberg said.


CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, John Watkins, said Capacity Australia’s initiative was a practical step forward in helping to prevent people with dementia and other cognitive disabilities from being financially abused.


“Financial abuse is a crime and as a society we should be taking all steps possible to eliminate it - up to 90% of financial abuse of people with dementia is committed by people well known to the victim.


“Our research highlights red flags that indicate potential financial abuse and gaps in policy and practice that enable abuse to occur. Providing staff education addresses one of these gaps,” Mr Watkins said.


The online learning tool was developed by Capacity Australia in collaboration with Australian online adaptive learning company, Smart Sparrow, using $50,000 in seed funding provided by UNSW’s Dementia Collaborative Research Centre.


12 February 2015.