Elder Financial Abuse on the Isle of Man

Elder Financial Abuse on the Isle of Man

May 11, 2021

One of the things that I come across in family disputes and probate and/or estate fraud is “Elder Abuse”; something which is taken very seriously in the United States, growing in appreciation in the UK, but which seems, unfortunately, to be “on the back burner”1 in the Isle of Man to the extent that people know of it, but it does not appear to be on or high on “the to do list” of those able to effect change. The Island’s focus appears to be more on physical abuse of the young or old. 

 

 What is Elder Abuse? 

When you hear about or read the phrase “elder abuse,” the immediate thought of most people is of a situation where there has been a physical attack or neglect of an elderly person. 

Whilst violence and neglect are types of elder abuse, there are many other types of abusive behaviour; much of which is frequently perpetrated by the elderly persons own children, other family members, spouses, staff in nursing homes, assisted living or other facilities and it often involves more than one person. The six most frequently recognised types of elder abuse include: 

  • Physical;
  • Sexual;
  • Emotional;
  • Psychological;
  • Neglect; and
  • Financial.

It is the financial aspects of elder abuse which this article highlights. 

Financial abuse quite simply means taking advantage of an elderly person for financial gain. This can be perpetrated in many ways, such as: 

  • Use of credit cards or bank accounts without permission, 
  • Forging of signatures; 
  • Forcing an individual to change a legal document like a Will or power of attorney; 
  • Charging a person too much for a home repair; or 
  • Billing for something that has never been received and/or supplied. 

Two of the worst and most commonly used are: 

  • Gaslighting; and 
  • Undue influence

 

 

Gaslighting 

This is in fact one of the most insidious forms of abuse where the abusers undertake psychological manipulation to make a person question their own memory, perception or judgement and which ultimately leads them to hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, values or to take part in something which is the exact opposite. 

In lay terms it can be best described as “playing little tricks to make a person think they are going crazy” and includes such things as hiding car keys, turning the heating on and up full when the elderly person thought it was off, little things that disappear and reappear in strange places like mobile phones. Over time the elderly person or indeed anybody subject to the same treatment comes to believe that they are “losing their mind and sense of reality”. 

An example of this sort of treatment can be seen in a recent UK news article in relation to that of Benjamin Field a church warden aged 28, and former university lecturer Peter Farquhar aged 69; where Field admitted to poisoning and defrauding Farquhar for two reasons, namely to get himself a better job and to inherit Farquhar’s wealth. 

On conviction, Field admitted a campaign of gaslighting and during his trial told how he had deceived Farquhar into thinking they were in a “genuine and caring relationship”, whilst he administered drugs “covertly” and “gaslighted him over a period of about six months”. Field told the court “[I was] moving things, so that he didn’t find them, to irritate. I did it vindictively and did it to confuse him.” 

 

Undue influence 

Under the right circumstances we are all susceptible to undue influence. 

Our vulnerability is increased when we are lonely, ill, drugged, drunk, fatigued, frightened, dependent, exhausted, rushed, stressed or uncertain. Our vulnerability is heightened when we are recently widowed, when we have cognitive impairments, or when we are physically and or terminally ill. 

Undue influence takes place when one person uses his or her role and power [influence] to exploit the trust, dependency, and fear of another. This power is used to gain psychological control over the decision making of a weaker person, usually for financial gain. 

Dependent and impaired people are particularly susceptible, but it can happen to anyone who would otherwise be considered capable and competent. The current interest in undue influence represents a coming together of three major forces: 

In some US States, California for instance, financial elder abuse is one of the most serious crimes where the law seriously protects elderly individuals. 

 

What are the Psychological Concepts in Undue Influence? 

Margaret Singer Ph.D. is a US clinical psychologist and emeritus adjunct professor of psychology and nationally renowned expert on elder financial abuse. The work undertaken by Dr. Singer in understanding the psychological processes of undue influence with the elderly has identified certain key relevant factors: 

Creating isolation 

Keeping the victim unaware and uninformed of the creation of the pseudoworld they have become a part. 

According to Dr. Singer, the process is deliberate and begins with isolation of the victim. All avenues of communication to and from the victim are controlled. In practical terms this means the perpetrators monitoring and manipulating ordinary day to day events such as: 

  • The abuser may tell family and friends that the victim is too busy, too tired, or too sick to see visitors.
  • Phone calls are monitored or not relayed to the victim.
  • Mail is censored or the victim may be told there is no mail.

The victim comes to think that no one cares. Once the isolation is in place, Dr. Singer explains that the abuser may create a siege mentality by telling the elder that no one cares about him or her and that the outside world is a dangerous place. Doctors, social workers, relatives, and neighbours may be portrayed as threatening and menacing. 

The elderly person is led to believe that only the abuser can keep them safe from relatives that are portrayed as cold and uncaring and only wanting to put the elder in a nursing home and take their assets. 

Inducing dependency 

Inducing dependency comes next. The elderly person is led to believe that he or she is alone and that no one is available to help except the abuser. 

Medication and food may be administered in ways that further weaken them. Withholding liquids may induce dehydration. The abuser may harp on the victim’s poor memory thus making it worse. The process then includes exploiting fears that the elder may have and even creating new fears. Common fears are losing independence, being abandoned, having assets drained by others, and being moved to a nursing home. The abuser may actively and repeatedly hammer home the point that they will take care of the elder and that no one else will. Finally, Dr. Singer explains that the victim is kept unaware of a false world that has carefully been created by the abuser. The abuser’s goal in exercising undue influence is usually to gain access to the elder’s assets. This can be accomplished once the elder victim is under the influence of the abuser. 

 

So how can Crossleys help?

In cases involving elder abuse it is important “not to jump the gun” and to accuse anyone of deceit, gaslighting, misappropriation, forgery, theft or undue influence without beforehand having obtained sufficient evidence and taken appropriate legal advice. To do otherwise enables any such perpetrator of such a misfeasance to “cover their tracks” and “muddy the waters”, so that the ability to hold them accountable in the future becomes more difficult. 

The key indicators of Elder Abuse effectively put one on notice that some financial fraud and/or other irregularities are or could be taking place. 

Crossleys can assist you in your understanding of what has happened or is happening and to set out the story and financial implications of the abuse for your lawyers and other advisers to advise accordingly. 

If you have a problem and need help, understanding and support and someone to talk to about what troubles you, then come and see me. 

Bridge Carter.

Manager, Forensic Investigation Team 

 

UHY Crossleys LLC

Telephone: +44 1624 822816

Email: bcarter@crossleys.com

www.crossleys.com

 

A member of UHY International, a network of independent accounting and consulting firms.

 

 



Article by Bridge Carter

Manager, Forensic Investigation Team 

 My job, is somewhat taxing at times in that aside from being the Personal Assistant to Nigel Rotheroe, Director at UHY Crossleys LLC, I am also a Manager, in the forensic/investigative team headed up by Nigel and his co-director, Andrew Pennington. I spent a number years as a Paralegal in local businesses and have continued in a support and investigatory capacity since joining Crossleys where I have been for 9 years or so. Life is never dull and every day seems to bring along new challenges and problems to solve. 

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