Monday, November 25, 2019:

Need for much greater awareness of risks of financial abuse.

Call for all adults to plan ahead to safeguard finances.

Up to 20% of adults have experience of financial abuse, however many older adults still do not think that it could happen to them – according to new research commissioned by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).

The findings of the research have been published as part of a public awareness campaign, led by BPFI in partnership with Safeguarding Ireland, which is highlighting the need for greater awareness of the real risks of financial abuse and calling on all adults to better plan ahead to safeguard their finances.

The research, carried out on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults using RED C’s omnibus survey, found that overall 20% of adults had experience of financial abuse, either currently or in the past.

A total of 10% said someone had used their property or possessions without permission, 8% said an income earning adult living with them refused to contribute to household bills, 6% said someone was making decisions about their money without consulting them and 4% said that they had money taken or used from a joint account without their agreement.

Some 43% said that they were not concerned about experiencing financial abuse in the future – highlighting a large cohort who do not perceive it as a real risk which could affect them.

Conversely, the same figure of 43% were concerned that financial abuse could happen to them in the future – with older people the least concerned about the issue.

Speaking about the risks of financial abuse and how people can protect themselves against it, BPFI Head of Sustainable Banking Louise O’Mahony said: “The findings show that financial abuse is happening at a higher incidence than many people realise and also that too many adults, particularly older people, aren’t concerned and think it won’t happen to them.

“We all need to prepare for the likelihood that one day we may need help managing our affairs due to a serious illness, accident or aging, and our message is that people should ‘have that conversation’ with someone they can trust and plan ahead for the future of their finances in order to protect themselves from financial abuse.

“Retail banks and An Post are developing policies to ensure a best practice approach to customers who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances. Talk with your bank who have trained frontline staff in identifying and responding to financial abuse.

“Steps which people can take include:

  • Understanding and organising your day-to-day banking to best protect against financial abuse
  • Checking your bank account(s) regularly
  • Ensuring access for you, and only a trusted person if needed, to your money by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.”

Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke stressed the importance of all adults planning ahead to avoid financial abuse, particularly older people, after just 37% of over 55’s said they were concerned that financial abuse could affect them.

“Unfortunately, it is estimated internationally that in excess of 10% of people are dishonest in how they manage a vulnerable person’s money. However, this research confirms what we have long thought – that the real incidence is higher than that with 20% reported.

“When people don’t have their choices, preferences and decisions legally stated and have a life-changing accident, become seriously ill, or frail due to age they are reliant on the honesty of friends and family. Safeguarding Ireland encourages all adults to talk about their wishes, plan ahead and avoid Financial Abuse.”

The research found that just 6% of Irish adults had put in place an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), which is very low by international standards.

Louise O’Mahony said BPFI was encouraged by the finding that 76% of respondents (including 84% of those over 55) said they would be likely to speak with their bank or An Post if they suspected financial abuse – and she encouraged all people with concerns to do so.

“Financial institutions can take actions to prevent and stop financial abuse; they can make dedicated one-to-one appointments available for customers who need it, they can speak with customers in confidence, and with an account holder’s permission they can monitor for suspicious behaviour.

“Your bank and An Post can also provide many tips such as to avoid keeping large amount of cash, using standing orders for secure payments, receiving and reviewing statements regularly, keeping PIN and CVV numbers private – and applying careful diligence to the use of joint or third party accounts.

“A lot of useful information is available in the BPFI’s information booklet Safeguarding your Money Now and in the Future and I encourage people to take time to read it,” Ms O’Mahony said.

More information, including the RED C research, can be viewed at www.safeguardyourmoney.ie and www.safeguardingireland.org.

The research was commissioned by BPFI and funded by members including AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, permanent tsb, Ulster Bank and An Post. The research informs a public awareness campaign on avoiding financial abuse being undertaken by BPFI together with Safeguarding Ireland.

Further Information

Jillian Heffernan, Head of Communications, BPFI: (087) 901 6880

Ronan Cavanagh, Safeguarding Ireland / Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.

 Financial abuse is defined as the unauthorised and improper use of funds, property or any resources including pensions, or others statutory entitlements or benefits. Financial abuse involves an act or acts where a person is deprived of control of their finances or personal possessions or exploited financially by another person or persons.

 Banking & Payments Federation Ireland

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) represents the banking, payments and fintech sector in Ireland. Together with its affiliates, the Federation of International Banks in Ireland and the Fintech & Payments Association of Ireland, BPFI has over 100 member institutions and associates, including licensed domestic and foreign banks and institutions operating in the financial marketplace here.

 Safeguarding Ireland 

Safeguarding Ireland was established to promote safeguarding of adults who may be vulnerable, protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and develop a national plan for promoting their welfare. This will be achieved by promoting inter-sectoral collaboration, developing public and professional awareness and education, and undertaking research to inform policy, practice and legislation in the Republic of Ireland.