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The elderly and financial exploitation

The term financial exploitation is used when a person with dubious intentions improperly uses the money or property of another person.

This type of exploitation unfortunately occurs much too frequently, and even tops the list ahead of physical and psychological abuse. The people most affected are the elderly, since they are often the most vulnerable.

At Desjardins, exploitation of the elderly is a concern. Caisse employees have been made aware of the problem. They have learned to recognize the signs of financial exploitation and about the community services in place to help the elderly.

In charge of your life and your property

Desjardins launched the "In Charge of Your Life and Your Property" program to help curtail financial exploitation of the elderly. Because 1 case is already too many, Desjardins wants to prevent anyone with dubious intentions, often a relative of the victim, from improperly using money or property belonging to an elderly person.

To help the elderly get out of what can often be a nightmarish situation, Desjardins caisses, in collaboration with community organizations, have implemented a strategy to help detect and address abusive situations experienced by elderly persons who are victims of this phenomenon. A flier describing the program is available in participating caisses.

Caisse personnel can now act as a bridge between victims and support organizations, always with the strictest confidence. Persons concerned will simply need to overcome their fear and break the silence by calling upon those who can come to their assistance.

Financial exploitation describes a situation where a person's financial resources are stolen, abusively controlled, mismanaged, or improperly used by a third person.

Examples are:

  • Theft
  • Fraud (e.g., forged cheques)
  • Embezzlement
  • Fraudulent use of a power of attorney (going well beyond the person's intentions)
  • Loans obtained under pressure or threats
  • Forced sale of goods or services
  • An "inheritance" taken over by a relative before the person dies
  • Fraudulent use, theft and skimming of an ATM card
  • A cheque is cashed by an attorney or authorized person for his or her personal needs (e.g., a pension cheque)
  • Request for excessive security deposit

Financial exploitation is not easy to detect. Victims often deny or hide the fact that they have been exploited for fear of being punished by the person exploiting them. It usually consists of a series of events over an extended period of time.

The following examples may be signs of financial exploitation:

  • Someone pressures you to make financial decisions against your will.
  • Someone improperly uses the power of attorney you have given him or her (e.g., to make unusual or inexplicable cash withdrawals, to restrict your access to your own passbook or transaction statement).
  • Someone withholds or cashes your pension or assistance cheques without your authorization.
  • The person in charge of your finances deprives you of money for basic needs such as food and clothing, no longer responds to your requests for information and tries to isolate you.
  • You are paying an excessive amount for rent or in exchange for small errands run by those close to you.
  • Someone forces you to change your will or sell your home.

Nobody, no matter what age, deserves to be exploited. You have the right to react and protect yourself.

Victims and witnesses of exploitation can get free and confidential help from several sources.

Quebec residents

Ontario residents

  • Speak to someone you can trust (friend, relative, nurse, doctor, priest or minister, social worker or police officer).
  • Notify your caisse.
  • Lodge a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission Toronto: 416-326-9511 outside Toronto: 1-800-387-5559
  • Call the Ontario Seniors' Secretariat, Seniors' InfoLine, toll-free: 1-888-910-1999 TTY: 1-800-387-5559

There are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of financial exploitation.

  • Have your pension income deposited directly to your financial institution.
  • Keep only a small amount of money in the house.
  • Be discreet when discussing your projects, property and valuables.
  • Make sure you fully understand any document before you sign it.
  • Never give the personal identification number (PIN) assigned to your ATM card to anyone.
  • Have an IOU made up and signed before a witness before finalizing a loan to a third person.
  • Make a will and get the advice of a competent person to ensure it is written correctly.
  • Designate a reliable person to make decisions on your behalf in the event you become unable to manage your own affairs with a Mandate in Case of Incapacity.
  • Keep abreast of your finances and make the decisions regarding your own affairs.
  • Reduce your withdrawal limits and transfer a portion of your assets to a savings account.

Most importantly, be cautious if someone close to you asks you for money or promises to take care of you in return for your house.

If you are a family member or a close friend

  • Stay in close contact with the elderly person.
  • Don't hesitate to discuss the choice of the person who will be responsible for his or her finances in the event of incapacity.
  • Stay vigilant and, if you suspect anything, offer assistance or information about financial exploitation.
  • Above all, always act in accordance with the elderly person's wishes and with respect for his or her right to secrecy and privacy.

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