New research published by Hourglass and Hodge has highlighted the shocking impact of the digital divide, which is leading to thousands of older people becoming victims of economic abuse every year. One man, Steve, whose name has been changed, told the terrible story of how his mother was scammed by her own flesh and blood.
Steve’s mother was financially abused by a member of her family. When his father died, she needed somewhere to live, and a family member offered for her to move in.
Steve said: “She paid all the bills. She was very kind and generous to them. For the 10 year she was with them, she was happy.”
However, it was not until Steve’s mother died that he discovered the financial abuse. Over a decade, his mother’s pension and savings were stolen.
Steve said: “They just fleeced her of all her finances. As she was laying dying in the next room, they were on their computer or phone transferring the money across. It’s hard to think that somebody would do that.”
Calls to the helpline increased by 21 percent as a result of the pandemic, as older people became more frequent targets of financial scams, attempting to get hold of their hard-earned money.
Richard Robinson, Chief Executive, Hourglass said: “Economic abuse is where someone in a position of trust interferes in an older person’s ability to acquire, use or maintain their finances.
“With the increasing digitisation of our finances, many older people are finding themselves without the skills and support to manage their money and at greater risk of this type of abuse.
“Some of the calls we get are heart-breaking. We are hearing reports of people losing their homes and savings as a result of this abuse.
“We’re working with Hodge to raise awareness of this often under reported issue and to try to do something to reduce the risks for older people.
“There are millions of people in the UK who are at risk of being abused in their older age. We are the one charity that can offer that tangible advice and support, to help make a difference to people’s lives.”
The survey also highlighted people’s concerns about older people becoming digitally excluded, with nearly 70 percent of respondents worrying about the closure of physical bank branches.
David Landen, CEO of Hodge, called for more banks to join them in tackling economic abuse online.
He said: “This research really brings home why it is so important we wake up as an industry and do more to address one of the most prevalent forms of abuse towards older people, economic abuse.
“As more aspects of our lives go digital only, older people without the right skills, support and access are increasingly being left open to exploitation.
“As a digital first organisation and a financial services provider for older people, we have a great platform and a responsibility to increase awareness and take action on this specific aspect of the economic abuse of older people.
“Brokers also have a duty to look out for signs of financial abuse and we will be providing them with essential information online to help them identify possible cases. We’re delighted to be working with Hourglass and to be taking our first steps in understanding and tackling economic abuse.”