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, manipulates your decision-making, or 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.
Financial abuse warning
It can be difficult to recognise the warning signs if you're in
a financially abusive relationship. Sometimes it takes a friend to
see what's really happening and help you find the support you
Here are some of the warning signs you may be in a financially
- Someone else controls your access to bank accounts or other
- Another person refuses to contribute financially to you or the
family, or they don't provide enough money to cover living
- You are being denied access to the internet, phone or
transport, which prevents you from working or studying.
- Someone is taking out loans or running up debts in your name,
or pressuring you to sign up for a loan.
- 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
Financial abuse is often accompanied by anger, verbal abuse, or
the threat of violence. As well as losing money, financial
abuse can also cause social isolation, depression and anxiety.
Where to get help and support for
If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing
financial abuse, you can contact the following organisations for
||What they do
||Free, confidential family violence and sexual assault
||1800 737 732, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
|Family Relationship Advice
||Information and advice on family relationship issues and
parenting arrangements after separation
||1800 050 321, 8am-8pm Mon to Fri, 10am-4pm Sat
|| Provides crisis support services
||131 114, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
||Free information and resources that can help if you're
struggling with debt
||1800 007 007, 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday
||Counselling services, mediation, and family dispute resolution
||1300 364 277 (call from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a
||Victorian free information support and referral service for
women, conducts research into women and financial
||1300 134 130
Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services
||Assistance to obtain legal protection from domestic violence
and help with other needs including accessing support services. NSW
||1800 938 227
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, neighbours or friends.
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 accessing or 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.
- The person you've appointed as your power of
attorney is not acting in your best interests (e.g. they're
taking money from your bank account to pay their bills).
- Your signature has been forged on cheques, bank accounts or
- 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're no longer receiving your mail (including account
statements), and you don't know why.
- 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
- 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
Case study: Maurice is financially abused by his daughter
Maurice 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
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:
Here are some things you can do to help protect yourself from
- Talk about financial matters with your family and friends.
- Learn to recognise and avoid financial scams.
- Keep track of your finances by checking your bank statements
regularly to make sure there have been no unauthorised
- Open your own mail.
- Stay in touch with the people you trust and care about.
- If you choose to lend money to someone, set up a repayment
- Never sign a document or make a large financial decision unless
you understand the terms and what your obligations are.
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.
Last updated: 18 Oct 2018