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Elder abuse risk higher now

elder abuse SMSF

The reliance on virtual meetings as a result of coronavirus lockdowns has led to elder abuse risk increasing among mature SMSF clients.

The changing practices with regard to client interactions brought about by COVID-19 workplace restrictions has increased the likelihood of elder abuse in the SMSF sector, a leading lawyer has said.

Specifically, Coleman Greig principal lawyer Peter Bobbin identified the increased use of electronic platforms, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, for client meetings as procedures making instances of elder abuse easier to perpetrate.

“Having [for example] the Teams meeting has opened up that opportunity and talking about the SMSF space, which we must, [the instance] of bringing the non-involved person [into the discussion] has been big,” Bobbin said during a practitioner panel session at an SMSF Association Sydney Chapter event held yesterday.

“The mechanism for that to grow exponentially under this current environment is huge. That is particularly driven by the tech savvy or lack [there]of by some generations.”

To this end, his experience has been for individuals who have been asked to leave an online meeting to remain and continue to be an influencing factor on the client.

“[Perhaps] you ask the other person to leave the room, [but] on a Zoom [meeting] we suspect the other person is still in the room and they’re feeding [the client] the answers, but they’re out of the camera view,” he noted.

According to Bobbin, advisers need amend their practice management procedures to address this issue immediately.

“Putting in place additional measures is actually an important thing to do now because we are so reliant on electronics. We actually have dropped our guard just that little bit because it’s easy [to conduct online meetings], it’s communicative, we think it’s working, but the truth of it is it’s not actually there,” he said.

He pointed out his legal firm has already conducted internal training processes to alert practitioners to some signs elder abuse might be taking place.

“[It can be a matter of] literally [noticing] the way people are looking at you, then looking away to another spot continuously in a Zoom meeting. [It can be] literally down to that,” he noted.

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