Financial abuse

Protecting your money from others

Financial abuse occurs when another person, perhaps your partner, one of your children, another member of your family or a friend, controls your access to money or other property without your consent. It can happen to anyone, no matter how old you are or how much money you have.

What is financial abuse: the warning signs

When you are in a financially abusive relationship it can sometimes be difficult to recognise the warning signs.  Sometimes it takes a friend to spot the signs and help you find the support you need. 

Here are some of the warning signs you may be in a financially abusive relationship:

  • Another person controls your access to bank accounts.
  • The other person refuses to contribute financially to you or the family, or they are not providing enough money to cover living expenses.
  • You are being prevented from working or studying.
  • Someone is taking out loans or running up debts in your name.
  • You have to account for how you spend your money.
  • Someone is selling your property (or threatening to sell it) without your permission.
  • Money is being hidden from you.
  • You are being made to feel like you are incompetent with money.

Financial abuse is often accompanied by anger, verbal abuse, or the threat of violence.

Where to get help and support for financial abuse

If you think you may be experiencing financial abuse, you can contact the following organisations for assistance:

Organisation What they do Contact details
1800 RESPECT Free, confidential family violence and sexual assault counselling service 1800 737 732, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Family Relationship Advice Line Information and advice on family relationship issues and parenting arrangements after separation 1800 050 321, 8am-8pm Mon to Fri, 10am-4pm Sat
Lifeline Provides crisis support services 131 114, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Relationships Australia Counselling services, mediation, and family dispute resolution services  1300 364 277 (call from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call)
WIRE Women Victorian free information support and referral service for women, conducts research into women and financial abuse 1300 134 130

Elder financial abuse

Older people are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse because they are often dependent on family members and other people for their day-to-day care or social contact. The people around you might seek to control your money or other assets.

Elder financial abuse commonly involves family members, including spouses, children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, but can include others such as carers and neighbours. 

Signs of elder financial abuse

As well as the warning signs listed above, here are some additional red flags that may be a sign that you are experiencing elder financial abuse:

  • Another person is controlling your bank accounts or credit cards or using them without your consent.
  • You are being forced to change your will.
  • A friend or family member is pressuring you to appoint them as your enduring power of attorney.
  • Your signature has been forged on cheques, bank accounts or legal documents.
  • Your bills haven't been paid, even though you have entrusted someone to do this for you.
  • You are being pressured to invest money in schemes that sound too good to be true.
  • Large or unexplained withdrawals or transfers have been made from your bank account.
  • You are being isolated from your family or friends, or threatened with being isolated if you don't give the perpetrator what they want.
  • Your property or possessions are being used without your permission.
  • You are made to feel guilty if you don't give money to the perpetrator or their family.

Financial abuse often occurs with other forms of abuse, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse or neglect. Evidence of these forms of abuse is usually more visible than financial abuse, and can sometimes be a sign that financial abuse is happening.

Case study: Maurice is financially abused by his daughter

Old Man Looking Into SpaceMaurice did not want to move into a care facility when he was diagnosed with dementia, so his daughter moved him into her family's spare bedroom.  She then convinced Maurice to appoint her as his enduring power of attorney. 

When she had control of Maurice's finances, she sold his house without his knowledge and used the funds to pay off her own mortgage.  She and her husband also bought a new car and used Maurice's money to pay their children's school fees. 

The financial abuse was only uncovered when Maurice's niece became concerned that she had not heard from him for some time. She contacted the Elder Abuse Hotline in her state for advice to help Maurice.

Support for elder abuse victims

You can obtain free legal advice from a community legal centre or Legal Aid office in your state or territory.

There are also organisations in each state and territory to support you if think you, or someone you know, might be experiencing elder financial abuse:

Location Organisation Contact details
National Alzheimer's Australia

1800 100 500

ACT

Older Persons Abuse Prevention Referral and Information Line

ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service

02 6205 3535

(02) 6242 5060 or  1800 700 600

NSW NSW Elder Abuse Helpline 1800 628 221
NT

NT Elder Abuse Information Line

1300 037 072
QLD

Elder Abuse Prevention Unit

Queensland Aged and Disability Advocacy

1300 651 192

1800 818 338

SA

SA Elder Abuse Prevention phone line

Alliance for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

1800 372 310

08 8232 5377 (Adelaide) or 1800 700 600 (rural)

TAS Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline (03) 6237 0047 or 1800 441 169
VIC

Seniors Rights Victoria

Elder Rights Advocacy

1300 368 821

1800 700 600

WA Advocare Inc. 1300 724 679 (Perth) or 1800 655 566 (rural)

Financial abuse is never okay.  In some states and territories it is regarded as a form of family violence.  Recognise the warning signs and don't be afraid to get help.


Related links


Last updated: 16 May 2016