A friend’s 86 year-old neighbour lives independently on her own. The neighbour’s son, who lives in another state, recently contacted my friend, expressing concern that there seemed to be a significant amount of money missing from his mother’s account. While the son had power of attorney, he had never exercised this, as his mother was still capable of managing her own affairs, and there had not been any indication that this should change. When viewing his mother’s bank account however, he noticed that it was much less than what it should have been – with potentially tens of thousands missing. In reviewing transactions over the past two years, he subsequently discovered a number of payments ranging from $600 to $8,000 to a home handyman and tree trimming business for a range of house and garden maintenance jobs which from the son’s point of view, were not necessary and/or significantly over-priced for what had been done. Over the last two months, the frequency of visits had increased with cheques for the above amounts being written every couple of days, because his mother did not remember she had already paid. To date, he has uncovered some $90,000 in unnecessary payments.
He has reported it to the police, who said that there are no laws to protect against this, particularly as his mother had signed the cheques and so the payment is legitimate. The police, who are aware of the gang doing this, advised to go to the consumers affairs and also report them to the Australian Taxation Office. He has subsequently put a laminated notice by the front door advising that all tradespeople must contact him before any work can be undertaken. He has also put a similar notice near the phone so his mother sees it if she gets a phone call spruiking work.
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