Forensic Accountant John Bain: Elderly Top Targets for Financial Abuse
Addressing the Elder Abuse Awareness Symposium hosted by the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, John Bain, Managing Partner of UHY Bain & Associates, a boutique firm of Chartered and Forensic Accountants in Nassau, laments that the elderly sector of our community is the largest targeted for financial abuse.
The daylong seminar held at Grace Community Church brought together elderly individuals from ten Urban Renewal centers around the island, their caretakers, social workers from the Ministry of Social Services and members of the public. The sessions covered varied forms of abuse faced by elderly persons, including physical, psychological, sexual, neglect and financial.
“Scamming of seniors is an issue that is widespread covering every country and every island in The Bahamas,” said Bain. “Siphoning money from their savings or stealing assets accumulated over a lifetime is on the rise because it is, unfortunately, so easy to do as they are vulnerable to financial abuses.”
While statistics in The Bahamas are lacking as it relates to specific dollar amounts and number of incidents, due mainly in part to lack of reporting, Bain estimates The Bahamas’ numbers to resemble that of the United States, summing a financial discrepancy of $143 million each year.
“A major issue surrounding compiling data is that persons are not speaking up,” he said. “The unfortunate result is that the majority of persons on record for seeking assistance are those already within the confines of assisted living facilities. However, there are many more of them out [of those facilities] than inside. I understand the hesitation that victims face in making reports. A large component of it is fear of confrontation with and retaliation by the abuser, who most of the time an entrusted and close family member and in some cases the only caretaker of the abused. Often, the elderly person may not feel as though they will receive sufficient support if they were to tell their story. Although certain risks may be involved, nothing abuses more than your silence.”
Throughout his practice, he has seen a steady increase in the number of cases of falsifying documents such as wills and the increase in internet fraud.
“I have come across many cases where the person dies, and the signature looks different from the signature of the testator,” said Bain. “Additionally, all of a sudden the contents that you knew were in the will, at a prior time, are not in the will anymore. All of a sudden this one particular child, sometimes with the help of legal counsel, gets all of the assets, which is quite clever.”
Bain acknowledged the need for increased public awareness on the issue applauding the Ministry for hosting the forum but stressed that more be done to equip persons in varying roles to identify those suffering which included further training of National Insurance Board employees, police officers, bank employees and members of the public.
“Our population needs to realize the importance of protecting seniors and their families from these scams so seniors can live an independent and secure life,” he said.
When asked about the legislation surrounding this matter, Bain noted, “Although I support legislation aimed specifically at protecting the elderly, we can begin now by enforcing what we now have on our law books. There currently exists legislation on the books to punish any abuser. What we have is a serious problem of enforcement of existing laws.”
If you know anyone who may be suffering any abuse, please report it to the National Hotline at 242-322-2763 or 242-422-2763.