Alan Chaplin reminded us via a comment on yesterday’s blog about how easily the keys to someone’s finances can handed to a fraudster.Alan says,”the ease with which power of attorney was granted to a fraudster , is frightening”.
In this case, the person whose property was put at risk, was of sound mind and body, but there will be smarter fraudsters targeting those less robust. Sadly , many of the most vulnerable are drawing to the end of their lives.
‘My fake sister tried to steal my home’
How a fraudster obtained legal documents to gain control of a woman’s financial lifehttps://t.co/enG0aagzfP
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) December 1, 2021
In this case, as in the case of a vicar in Luton, the fraud was discovered. But the people involved were not elderly and of sound mind. The Land Registry claims that only £3.5m was paid in compensation for fraud against the register.
But the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is a different agency whose job is to protect the vulnerable. Right now it looks to be a weak link which could be allowing the elderly to be put at particular risk. It has no means of telling how many powers of attorney have been issued to fraudsters as it doesn’t have protections in place to check applicants.
The Office of the Public Guardian investigates thousands of safeguarding cases every year, where individuals raise concerns that a lasting power of attorney is being misused or abused. In some cases the person named as the attorney is stripped of that power.
However, Shari Vahl of You & Yours has discovered that the same resources are not being directed at cases of fraud, where an application is entirely false. The government body does not use any fraud detection systems to cross reference the identities on applications, and currently employs no trained fraud investigators.
The Office of the Public Guardian told the BBC in a statement:
“When fraud is committed it is extremely distressing and we act quickly to investigate and remove these from the register.
“We intend to introduce further safeguards against fraud and abuse. These include more direct inquiries with those creating the lasting power of attorney.”
The worry is that the cases of fraud that are being discovered may be the tip of the iceberg and that the real damage has yet to come to light.
Last summer the OPG ran a 12 week consultation on modernising lasting powers of attorney – safer, simpler and fit for the future . Let’s hope that Shari Vahl’s work comes in time to ensure resource is dedicated to protecting the vulnerable and especially the elderly, from being locked out from their property.