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The Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) has developed a package of materials to promote good practice and clearer processes for banks so they can better support customers who may be vulnerable to financial abuse or who want to plan ahead and manage their financial affairs, especially as they get older.
The banking industry is concerned about financial abuse and it wants to work together with interested groups to prevent this silent crime.
The ABA’s financial abuse package consists of:
Financial abuse is a serious issue with far reaching consequences for individuals, their families and the community. It can happen to anyone, but some people may be at greater risk, including older Australians, people with a disability, people experiencing mental illness or emotional challenges, and people who are socially isolated.
Financial exploitation of a vulnerable person is a deeply challenging area for banks. Every customer’s situation is unique and banks have an obligation to protect their customers’ privacy, maintain the bank’s duty of confidentiality, and to not unnecessarily intrude into their customers’ lives. To intervene or question a customer inappropriately, or without due consideration and sensitivity, may cause embarrassment for the customer, or possibly damage the customer-banker relationship, or even result in greater vulnerability for the customer. Consequently, in cases of suspected financial abuse, it’s important to be both vigilant and cautious.
Issues can also arise when customers put in place power of attorney arrangements which determines how their money and property will be handled if something happens to them, or to manage a period away – such as, a holiday or a period of illness. Unfortunately these arrangements can also be misused. When a customer is no longer able to manage their own affairs, it is not unusual for a Court or Tribunal to appoint a substitute decision-maker, such as an administrator or guardian.