Financial abuse — what to look out for

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Financial abuse — what to look out for
Financial abuse — what to look out for

Financial abuse can happen to anyone. It is also a common, yet often poorly understood, aspect of family violence.

Verve’s Head Financial Coach Zoe Lamont, explains that over the past decade she has often spoken to women who have unknowingly described their marriage, or financial situation, as a coercive, controlling, financially abusive relationship.

Lamont explains that “financial abuse, just like emotional and psychological abuse, can be hard to recognise when it is happening to you. This is where friends and family can help if you spot something that is off’.”

According to the Government Money Smart Website, the official definition of financial abuse is when someone takes away your access to money, manipulates your financial decisions, or uses your money without consent. This often exists alongside other forms of emotional or physical abuse, however, this may not always be the case. In the majority of cases, financial abuse is perpetrated by one spouse towards the other, however, it may also occur between children and elderly parents, parents to adult children or other familial relationships.

Once you know the signs, there are ways to get help and regain your independence.

Signs of a financially abusive person

A person can be financially abusive in many different ways. Some signs of financial abuse are when a person:

Controls your access to money

  • restricts your access to bank accounts, credit cards or cash
  • makes you ask permission to spend your own money
  • denies you access to the internet, phone or transport to prevent you from working or studying
  • refuses to contribute to shared costs or child support
  • refuses to provide you with enough money for living expenses or for costs related to raising children

Uses your money without your knowledge or consent

  • forges your signature on cheques
  • withdraws or transfers large amounts of money from your bank account
  • uses your credit card
  • cancels or hides bank or credit card statements
  • uses bill, rent or mortgage money for something else
  • sells your property

Signs legal documents

  • forges your signature on legal documents
  • forces you to sign documents that you don’t understand
  • takes out loans, credit cards or debts in your name without your permission
  • pressures you to take on a loan or a debt on their behalf
  • forces or pressures you to change your will
  • forces or pressures you to appoint them as your enduring power of attorney
  • doesn’t act in your best interests as your power of attorney

Threatens or punishes you

  • makes you feel guilty if you don’t give them money
  • isolates you — or threatens to — from your family or friends if you don’t give them money
  • hurts or punishes you — or threatens to — if you don’t give them money
  • makes you feel stupid or that you can’t be trusted with money
  • questions or punishes your spending

Getting help and support for financial abuse

If you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse, free and confidential help is available.

If you need legal help or advice, see free legal advice.

If you’re in crisis or struggling to make ends meet, find out how to get urgent help with money.

Contact one of these organisations for free and confidential support.

Help for families affected by relationship or separation issues 

Family Relationship Advice Line

  • 1800 050 32
  • 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday
  • 10am-4pm, Saturday

Crisis Support


  • 13 11 14, 24 hrs

Crisis Support Chat

Family violence, abuse and sexual assault counselling


  • 1800 737 732, 24 hours

1800RESPECT Online Chat

Help if you’re struggling with debt

National Debt Helpline

  • 1800 007 007
  • 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday

Family counselling, mediation and dispute resolution services

Relationships Australia

  • 1300 364 277

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