Major banks overlooking elder abuse

The Australian Bankers Association and the four major banks aren't doing enough to prevent elder financial abuse, particularity within branches where they are most vulnerable, an advocate group said.

Michael Riley, chief executive of not-for-profit organisation Greysafe, said it's been over a year since the ABA asked banks to be more proactive and develop a framework to combat elder abuse.

This has been met with silence by bank bosses who seem more focussed on delivering record profits for shareholders, developing multi-million dollar advertising and PR campaigns and cutting staff from branches, he said.

"Cuts to frontline branch staff numbers and services are going to put older customers, many who struggle with technology and rely on bank staff to help them with their banking needs, at a greater risk of exploitation and abuse from perpetrators."

Among thousands of calls to elder abuse help lines each year, over a third relate to financial abuse, with many falling prey to perpetrators stealing money or forcing them to sign bank forms, he added.

The advocacy group is urging to have dedicated and trained elder protection officers in branches for all customers over 65-years-old to minimise the risk of elder abuse.

Amid NAB announcing thousands of redundancies recently and fears technology changes will replace jobs and close down branches, Riley said there are fears the other big banks will follow suit.

When faced with new technology and change, older Australians will often put trust in a family member to help or take control of their banking thus putting them at greater risk of financial abuse and manipulation, he added.

Based on APRA's figures, 300 bank branches closed last year, with the major banks closing at least 38 branches this year.

Riley added ABA chief executive Anna Bligh is yet to provide an update on what action the banking industry has taken since November 2016 when it was asked to develop a framework to identify and escalate potential abuse.

Read more: ABAAustralian Bankers AssociationAnna BlighAPRAGreysafeMichael RileyNAB
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