Giving out your banking details to someone you trust so they can help you with your shopping, bill paying, or banking is potentially highly dangerous to one’s financial security. However, we find it is all too common amongst our clients.
Recovering money for someone who has willingly given out their banking details is not always impossible but is very challenging. Police are unable to assist in such situations because the details have been knowingly shared and banks are reluctant to assist with compensation, as sharing your account details with someone else is in breach of the terms and conditions entered into with the bank when opening any account.
We strongly recommend against giving out bank details or handing over a bank card even to someone you trust. All necessary details to transact with an account are on the back of a bank card, so a person only needs to get hold of it once to record all relevant details for their later use, even if they have returned the card to you.
If you become aware that someone has had access to your bank card or banking details, you should carefully monitor your bank statements and consider cancelling the bank account or card and getting a new account or card.
An alternative option to handing over your card or account details is to ask to be taken to a post office, bank, or ATM by a trusted person and withdraw cash yourself wherever possible and then just hand over the necessary amount of cash for your bills or shopping. If you use a computer and online banking, agree to transfer to them the amount of money necessary for your bill or shopping. Alternatively, pay your bills by phone or internet yourself if possible or seek out assistance from a support worker to be taken shopping or to a post office so you can pay your bills yourself if you are unable to independently.
If a family member or friend accuses you of not trusting them by not agreeing to give them your bank card or account details, we recommend you tell them that you don’t wish to breach the terms and conditions of your account and you wish to remain as independent as possible.
If a power of attorney misappropriates money, it is usually easier to pursue compensation for the money taken, as it is a clear breach of the law. However, if someone who is not a power of attorney takes money from your account after being given access to account details, then it is more challenging to recover money taken. Therefore, we recommend that anyone that requires practical assistance with the management of their financial affairs, or prior to requiring such assistance, to obtain legal advice about appointing a Supportive and/or Enduring Power of Attorney they can trust, and about putting certain conditions on the Power of Attorney.
We also recommended putting a lock on your letter box to protect your bank statements and other mail on which there is identity information. The Australian Federal Police website has helpful tips for protecting yourself from identity crime which can have disastrous financial consequences.
We unfortunately have multiple cases every year where our client’s accounts have been completely depleted to zero once a friend or family member has obtained access to their bank card or account details, forcing our clients into financial hardship.
If you, or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, help is available through our confidential helpline on 1300 368 821.
Lawyer, Seniors Rights Victoria
Image at top by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash