Seniors are more likely to be scammed over the internet by their own family members than by international scam artists, a Western Australian support group for older people says.
Advocare estimates at least 12,500 seniors in Western Australia may be experiencing abuse – which includes physical, emotional or financial abuse.
Chief Executive Officer Greg Mahney said ease of access to family funds and information can see older people taken advantage of.
“The situation gets to the point where they’ve got the bank details, the password, they know how much money Grandad has got and the temptation can come into play,” Mr Mahney said.
“The contention is that it is in fact more likely to happen by a family member than a Nigerian scam artist.
“It can take people years to come to terms with the fact that it’s their own relatives who are doing the wrong thing to them.”
Mr Mahney said the state’s first hotline for elder abuse would raise awareness and provide assistance.
The hotline opened earlier this month and offers a direct link to appropriate services.
Mr Mahney said the struggle to accept that abuse was happening could prevent seniors seeking the help they needed.
“We are sure that elder abuse is dramatically under-reported,” he said.
“The hotline will make it much easier for people – they aren’t sure if they should call the police, legal aid, religious figures, government bodies.
“I think it’s important we accept that elder abuse does happen and that there are avenues for assistance.”
Senior solicitor for Advocare’s Older People’s Rights Service, Fran Ottolini, says the service handles hundreds of elder abuse cases annually.
Ms Ottolini said elder abuse was “certainly an unrecognised epidemic”.
“It is often the third stage in a trilogy of family abuse,” she said.
“Similarly to child abuse and domestic violence, it has taken some time to be recognised.
“A big element for us is the financial abuse that can occur – if you lose your house at 89 there is an issue.”
If you are experiencing elder abuse or know someone who may be, the elder abuse hotline is open weekdays on 1300 724 679.