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Financial abuse prevention

Financial abuse is a serious and far reaching problem that can happen to anyone. It can take many forms and can happen over an extended period of time.

Financial abuse includes spending money without permission, forging signatures, coercing someone to sign something, pension-skimming; using the person’s bank account or credit card without their consent; denying them access to their money or bank statements.

It can involve a loan that is never paid back, or threatening or pressuring someone to invest in something on their behalf, or forcing someone to provide care or other services without being paid or fairly compensated, or pay their expenses.

It can also be pressure to loan money, go guarantor on a loan, bullying a person to change their will, power of attorney or other legal arrangements.

The banking industry is concerned about financial abuse and it wants to work together with interested groups to prevent this silent crime.



Financial Domestic Abuse

Financial abuse is one form of domestic abuse. Withholding money, stealing money, and restricting the use of finances are some examples of financial abuse. Financial abuse is a form of family violence and is about power, control and manipulation.

Industry Guideline: Preventing and responding to family and domestic violence


What financial domestic abuse looks like

  • Forcing a partner to work in a family business for little or no pay.
  • Prevent someone from obtaining or using credit cards or bankcards.
  • Forcing access to bank accounts to make transactions without permission.
  • Putting someone on an “allowance” even if they object to this.
  • Overusing credit cards or refusing to pay the bills (and ruining victim’s credit).
  • Forcing a partner to turn over their paychecks or public benefit payments.
  • Forcing victims to cash in, sell or sign over any financial assets or inheritance they own.
  • Forcing victims you to agree to a power of attorney that would enable your partner to legally sign documents without your knowledge or consent.

Abuse in Transaction Descriptions

An increase in customers transferring money electronically is presenting new ways for abuse to occur. With bank transfer descriptions now include up to 280 characters, abusers are using transaction descriptions, (in transactions typically smaller than $1) to harass victims.


Industry Guideline: Preventing and responding to financial abuse


How customers can help protect themselves

  • Always protect your bank and financial cards, cheque books and other important documents. Never hand over a PIN or password to anyone.
  • Talk to your bank about setting up direct debits and pre-authorised bill payments. Consider who has third party authorisations over your accounts and ensure that they are trusted.
  • Keep a track on your bank accounts, investments and other assets.
  • Always read contracts and other documents carefully and never sign anything under duress, seek legal advice when in doubt or contact police if you think you are being abused.
How customers can protect themselves from financial abuse

Elder Financial Abuse

Increased house prices and reasonable superannuation balances can mean that some older people are in a good financial position, which can lead to family members feeling a sense of entitlement (also known as “inheritance impatience”). 6 in 10 Australians are worried that someone they know will be the victim of this insidious abuse. Research shows 87% of Australians want governments to do more to stop it. More