Customer Assistance Tools
At Heartland we are proud to have helped over fifteen thousand New Zealand seniors live a better retirement with our reverse mortgage.
We aim to provide customers with peace of mind and have a culture that places significant importance on the duty of care we have for every customer.
One of the ways we do this is to ensure our staffs have an awareness of elder financial abuse, including undue influence and unconscionable conduct, and take steps to both detect and prevent its occurrence where possible.
A downloadable copy of our Elder Financial Abuse Guide is also available.
- Family member or friend attempting to handle all or a majority of communication on behalf of applicant with no authority to do so.
- Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although the customer has enough money to pay for them.
- Giving implausible explanations, or appears confused, about what they are doing with their money.
- Customer reluctant to answer questions or avoiding providing information.
- Management of a seemingly competent older person’s finances by another person.
- Signs of misuse of an Enduring Power of Attorney order, with control over an older person’s property/financial affairs to the detriment of the older person’s welfare.
- Indicating mail is no longer being delivered to their home.
- Funds only being drawn for gifting to children, without genuine customer desire to do so.
- An other occupier residing in the security taking advantage of a customer.
- Makes transactions they are incapable of completing (i.e. a request whilst in hospital).
- Third parties completing and lodging paperwork on the customer’s behalf without documented authority on file.
- Confusion regarding the application or account, despite clear explanation.
- Loan purpose is not suitable for customer type, or does not meet requirements and objectives.
- Nature of the request and amount requested do not align.
- The customer’s financial documentation is unusual, erratic and inconsistent with customer type.
- Overseas payments or large unusual transactions.
- Withdrawals from a customer’s Express Top Up facility or redraw, that are inconsistent with purpose.
- Withdrawals from a customer’s Express Top Up facility or redraw organised by a person other than the borrower.
- Signatures on documents/cheques not resembling the customer’s signature.
- Customer not understanding or aware of recently completed transactions.
- Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and insurance policies.
- A change in attitude (i.e. fearful, secretive, withdrawn when there was not the tendency to do so previously).
If a customer has limited mobility, cognitive impairment, or speaks English as a second language, they may be entirely dependent on others for support. These situations should be treated with an appropriate level of care to ensure that the customer is not being taken advantage of.
- The customer is unable to sign for themselves;
- The funds are for the benefit of the Nominated Borrower(s); and
- The order has not been revoked.
When independent legal advice is provided, Heartland requires the solicitor to sign a letter of comfort confirming this information and if applicable a doctor’s certification that the customer cannot sign for themselves.
Heartland also requires a certified copy of the documentation.
At all times, privacy procedures are followed. If a child or friend of a customer calls, no information will be released unless there is permission provided (an authority letter, Power of Attorney in place.).
Frontline staff should listen to the customer. If there are concerns raised directly by the customer, they should always be taken seriously and documented on the lending system.
Criticism or negative responses to customer situations are to be avoided. A supportive and understanding approach which aligns with Heartland’s duty of care is crucial in a red flag investigation.
If there are red flags, and third parties have inserted themselves into the financial transaction without due cause, the customer should be contacted without the third party present for an independent conversation.
All concerns and suspicions are escalated to management immediately if financial abuse is suspected or confirmed. Heartland may:
- Not offer a loan;
- Not provide additional funds;
- Delay the release of funds until investigations can be made;
- Report fraud to the Police;
- Notify protective agencies if there has been an abuse of Power of Attorney;
- Speak to any additional account holder(s), attorneys, or signatories;
- Request permission to speak to other family members to assist;
- As part of the application, require a medical certificate to confirm capacity of the borrower;
- If there is an immediate fear of safety, contact the Police; and/or
- If the customer cannot be contacted directly, request a Police welfare visit.
- Fear that telling someone about the abuse will lead to losing the relationship, possible retaliation, or further loss of independence
- Be reluctant to believe that someone they trust is exploiting them
- Want to the abuse to stop, but protect the abuser from legal repercussions
- Fear they will not be believed, or that reporting the abuse will be pointless
- Furthermore, they may not realise that financial abuse is taking place if information is being withheld from them, or account statements and other mail have been redirected
Due to this, independent discussion directly with the customer is of vital importance when investigating red flags.
It is important when reviewing red flags that questions are asked to determine the customer’s true situation. Depending on the customer’s requirements and objectives, it could be an informed decision that is independent from improper influence.
Conduct is improper when it involves intimidation, deceit, coercion, emotional manipulation, physical or psychological abuse, undue influence, or empty promises.
Elder abuse may not involve malicious intent (i.e. there could be a mistaken sense of entitlement, or a misunderstanding about power of attorney role), but still results in financial harm. It could happen at any time, and by any person, including someone who was previously responsible for assisting the customer and did so correctly.
If a customer advises of abuse, they will be referred to their local Age Concern for assistance (www.ageconcern.co.nz for all locations)
|Central Auckland||09 820 0184|
|Auckland North Shore||09 487 4975|
|Hamilton||07 838 2266|
|Tauranga||07 578 2631|
|Hawkes Bay||06 870 9060|
|Wellington||04 499 6646|
|Nelson||03 544 7624|
|Canterbury||03 366 090 3 or 0800 803 344|
If a family member or friend believes that the customer is experiencing memory loss or confusion, or the customer has asked for help, they will be referred to Dementia New Zealand 0800 433 636 or www.dementia.nz.
If a customer is experiencing financial difficulty, they may be referred to their local Citizens Advice Bureau or Eldernet for resources on financial hardship.
You can visit the following websites to access information that you may find useful.
Age Concern can provide information, services and advocacy to people affected by dementia around New Zealand who may be suffering from financial abuse.
MoneyTalks is a free helpline available to provide free budgeting advice to individuals, family and whanau.
Learn more about dementia, get answers to questions, find out about the support available.