At least 1,500 elderly and vulnerable people are being defrauded of up to 1m each year by people, including nursing home staff, who are trusted to take over their financial affairs.

Denzil Lush, master of the court of protection, was due to tell a conference in Liverpool today that fraud involving six-figure sums is'by no means unprecedented'.

'Most people who are granted power of attorney over someone else's financial affairs are honest, decent people,' Mr Lush says. 'There are some, however, who take liberties and a few who are out and out crooks.'

Financial abuse occurs in 10 to 15 per cent of cases where people are registered as having enduring powers of attorney and more often with unregistered powers, Mr Lush says. This year, 10,000 people will be registered.

Action on Elder Abuse, which is organising the conference, says urgent reform of the law is needed.