Rise in theft from OAPs

Figures from Action on Elder Abuse found almost £80m of cash and property was stolen from elderly people last year – much of it by relatives.

Friday, 2nd October 2015, 3:50 pm

Catherine Denwood, 76, from Lancaster, took her niece Helena Burrows in when she needed a place to live.

But after Mrs Denwood was admitted to hospital suffering a minor stroke, Burrows became more demanding and controlling.

In the months that followed Burrows, 24, stole £13,000 from her aunt’s accounts splashing out on clothes, makeup and a lifestyle far beyond her means.

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When the theft was uncovered Mrs Denwood feared she may lose her home after learning her niece had taken out payday loans in her name which she could not afford to pay.

In April 2014 Burrows was sentenced to eight months in prison but speaking after the sentence hearing at Preston Crown Court, Mrs Denwood said: “It was frightening. Me and my husband worked all our lives for that. After he died I took her in thinking she was going to look after me.”

Sadly Mrs Denwood is not alone.

Recent figures from the charity Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) reveal a sharp rise in the number of reports of pensioners being financially abused by family members.

In the year ending March 2013 their helpline received 5,722 calls in connection with all types of abuse of elderly people - including financial, verbal, neglect and physical abuse.

By March 2015 that figure rose to 21,267.

The 7,529 of those calls - almost a third - relating to financial abuse reveal a worrying trend.

Gary Fitzgerald, AEA’s chief executive, says: “It is far more common than people imagine.

“One of the most painful messages we have to deliver is that the majority of theft and fraud of elderly people is perpetrated by members of their own family - their son’s daughters, nieces and nephews.

“It is easier for them to convince mum or dad that handing over financial control is the safest thing to do.”

Of the calls to AEA’s helpline last year, 12,462 of the victims were women and 5,805 were men. Some 12,760 of the victims were over 80 years old and 3,190 were over 90.And 4,041 had dementia.

Action on Elder Abuse has a dedicated helpline for anyone concerned they, or an elderly person is suffering any form of abuse or neglect.Call the freephone helpline on 080 8808 8141.