When you think of domestic and family abuse, chances are verbal abuse and physical violence come to mind. But financial abuse can be just as damaging, taking away people’s independence and leaving them feeling vulnerable, isolated, and depressed.
Research shows nearly 16% of women and over 7% of men in Australia have experienced financial abuse in their lifetime. It’s the most commonly reported form of abuse of older adults.
But financial abuse can happen to anyone. The abuser might be a partner, family member, friend, or caregiver. Financial abuse and control might be used alongside other forms of domestic and family violence to keep a survivor trapped in an unhealthy relationship, but it can also be present without these other behaviours.
This hidden and often misunderstood form of abuse can take many forms. Learn how to recognise the signs of financial abuse and how you can protect yourself and others.
Signs of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse includes any situation where someone that you trust takes away your access to money, manipulates your financial decisions, or uses your money or assets without your consent.
Tactics used might include:
- Taking control of someone else’s money (e.g. being in charge of all the household income and paying the other person an allowance)
- Controlling how money is spent
- Withholding money from someone
- Taking money or credit cards from someone without their permission
- Selling someone’s assets without their permission
- Forging someone’s signature on financial documents
- Forcing or pressuring someone to change their Will
- Threatening or punishing someone for how they spend their money
- Withholding someone’s financial statement or bank account details from them
- Taking out a loan, credit card, or bank account in someone else’s name
- Ruining someone else’s credit
- Refusing to contribute to shared living costs
- Refusing to repay money they’ve borrowed
- Preventing someone from getting a job or going to work
- Preventing someone from studying.
These are just some financially abusive behaviours. Financial abuse can be harder to spot than some other forms of domestic and family violence.
The person causing the abuse might use subtle tactics like manipulation, and not even recognise that their actions or behaviours are abusive. Others might be more overt, using intimidation, demands, and threats.
How to Get Help for Financial Abuse
If you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse, free and confidential help is available.
RAQ provides counselling and other support services for anyone experiencing financial abuse or any other concerns in their relationship, family, or other aspect of their personal life.
We also offer our Senior Financial Protection Service (SFPS) to older persons who might be at risk of financial abuse. The SFPS provides support through referrals to those already impacted by financial abuse, and in some instances, offers financial case management.
You can call our client contact centre on 1300 364 277 to discuss which of our services can best support you.
Please note we are not a crisis service. If you need urgent help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you believe you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.