Financial elder abuse

Financial elder abuse is a form of elder abuse. Financial abuse can range from someone using your credit card, all the way through to you being coerced to change your will. But there are other types of financial abuse as well.

The most common types of financial elder abuse

The National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study (NEAPS) revealed how a percentage of older people in Australia living at home experienced financial abuse in the 12 months preceding the survey. Read the report here.

The most common types of financial elder abuse include:

  • financial decisions being made for an older person without their permission
  • being pressured into making or changing a will
  • deliberately prevented an older person from accessing or using their own money, possessions or property
  • adult children living with the older person who don’t contribute to household expenses such as rent, food, or aged care home service fees where it was previously agreed upon that they would
  • money, possessions or property being taken without permission
  • being pressured into giving or loaning money, possessions or property

This list is not exhaustive.

Financial abuse is prevalent for both older men and older women, and in many cases they experience more than one type of financial abuse. NEAPS reveals that an experience of this type of abuse is associated with poorer physical health, poorer psychological health and a lower sense of social connection.

Older people who are separated, divorced, or who are financially disadvantaged, are at greater risk of financial abuse.

Who commits financial elder abuse?

The main perpetrators are adult children. Almost half of the reports of financial abuse involved intergenerational relationships.

Financial elder abuse can be committed by:

    • adult children (the largest group of financial abuse perpetrators)
    • partner/ex-partner
    • in-laws
    • step-children and grandchildren
    • brother or sister
    • neighbour, friend, acquaintance
    • service provider
    • professional carer
    • other

Generally, men are twice as likely as women to be perpetrators, and sons are twice as likely as daughters to be perpetrators.

Financial problems and mental health problems are relatively common amongst perpetrators.

How to tell if if someone is experiencing financial elder abuse

Here are common signs of an older person experiencing financial elder abuse.

  • credit card/s missing
  • unknown transactions appearing on the older person’s bank statements
  • being taken by someone else to a bank or ATM to withdraw money
  • offering financial support which is never repaid, even though it was agreed upon that it would be
  • misuse of power of attorney, such as a will, power of attorney or property title deed being changed
  • paying someone else’s bills/the other party is not contributing to shared expenses
  • an older person is not able to afford basic items
  • bank card or bank book is used by someone else
  • missing possessions, assets, legal documents or ID
  • sudden changes to living arrangements/residence


What if I know someone who might be experiencing financial elder abuse?

If you suspect an older person is experiencing psychological elder abuse, approach the matter sooner, rather than later, for the sake of the older person’s wellbeing.

It can be hard for people to share what is happening. Try starting a conversation about it when it is safe and private. Talk about the situation freely to help make sense of what is happening. The older person may stop sharing important information if you show any kind of judgement or criticism.

Offer support for the person to stay connected and safe. If the older person agrees, then involve a professional person.

Better Place Australia Elder Abuse Prevention Services in Melbourne and across Victoria have supported over 1000 people and their families. You can contact Better Place Australia to discuss the situation by calling 1800 214 117.

What if help isn't sought?

Only 3 in 10 older people seek qualified help for financial abuse.

It is not advisable for the older person to tackle the issue without professional guidance and support. It can put them more at risk.

If a person is experiencing financial elder abuse, it’s important to know that the abuse doesn’t normally go away by itself. In fact, it can escalate.

Who to talk to about financial elder abuse

The best way to deal with financial abuse is:

  • seek confidential support from specialist elder abuse services, such as Better Place Australia

How can Better Place Australia help?

We will have a confidential, face-to-face or telephone consultation with the person to establish concerns and wishes. The process will empower the older person to come to decisions they want to make, in order to take control and remain safe.

Call 1800 214 117 or send us a confidential email with your contact details.

Watch the National Ageing Research Institute (Nari) video on financial elder abuse

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