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Pensioners urged to exercise vigilance in use of 'temporary agents’ to pick up payments

It is estimated internationally that between 10-20% of agents abuse their position.

Image: Shutterstock/Patrick Thomas

VULNERABLE MEMBERS OF the public have been warned to guard against the potential for financial abuse during the Covid-19 crisis.

It follows the introduction of new measures last month allowing people in at-risk groups, including pensioners, to appoint temporary agents to pick up social welfare payments. 

Safeguarding Ireland, which promotes the safeguarding of vulnerable adults, has warned that there is a chance the measure could expose people to financial risk. 

While the use of temporary agents at banks and post offices was necessary to allow people to cocoon or self-isolate, vigilance was needed, the organisation warned.  

Safeguard Ireland says it is estimated internationally that between 10-20% of temporary agents abuse their position.

Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke, said:

“What is most important is that people are safe and follow the guidelines to stay at home.

“Also during this time we need to be careful to ensure that temporary financial measures that have come into effect at banks and post offices do not lead to greater financial abuse.”

Rickard-Clarke urged anyone considering appointing a temporary agent to do so with caution. 

She said: “Specifically, Safeguarding Ireland is advising against establishing joint bank accounts, to explore other measures before using a ‘temporary agent’ and if using an agent to do so with caution.

“In as much as possible that people, particularly those who are vulnerable, should keep control of their own finances.

“For example, in many cases people may be able to pay pharmacists or local shops themselves by phone with a third-party collecting, rather than handing over their debit/credit card.

“Forms giving agents consent to collect pensions and other welfare payments at post offices should be carefully used one at a time, dated and signed, and a person’s Public Service Card returned after each use.

“We welcome that the banks have developed guidance for cocooning customers and have available customer helplines to support people on safe management of their finances,” she added.

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