Financial abuse happens when someone uses money or things relating to money to hurt, scare or control you. Someone who is financially abusive might also use things you own, or things you both own, to cause problems for you. Financial abuse can be subtle or obvious. Subtle financial abuse could include a perpetrator gradually taking control over bank accounts and financial transactions. More obvious financial abuse can be violent and threatening. For example, someone may forbid their partner from working or from spending their wages. Financial abuse can be a form of domestic or family violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse it’s OK to ask for help.
If you’re in a financially abusive relationship, it can be difficult to see the warning signs. Sometimes it takes a friend to notice what’s really happening and help you find the support you need. Here are some of the warning signs you may be in a financially abusive relationship:
- Someone else controls your access to bank accounts or other money.
- Another person refuses to contribute financially to you or the family, or they don’t provide enough money to cover living expenses.
- You are 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 get permission from another person to spend your own money.
- Someone is selling (or threatening to sell) your property without your permission.
- You are being made to feel like you are incompetent with money.
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. Source: Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Signs financial abuse is happening
- someone taking complete control of finances and money
- restricting access to bank accounts
- providing an inadequate allowance and monitoring what their partner spends money on
- forbidding a partner to work
- not letting a partner use joint bank accounts for normal household expenses
- refusing to pay for items needed such as food, medicine, or disability-related equipment
- taking a partner’s pay and not allowing them to access it
- preventing them from getting to work by taking their keys or car
- identity theft to secure credit
- using their credit card without their permission
- refusing to work or contribute to household expenses
- stopping you from having money that is yours
- forcing you to pay for things you don’t want or need
- forcing or pressuring you to giving your money to them or someone else
- controlling or taking your pension, benefits, or pay
- forcing or pressuring you to giving them control of your money, payments, bank accounts or property
- forcing or pressuring you to sell your property
- taking or selling your property without your permission
- Taking out loans or running up debts in your name
- refusing to use their money to support you and your children (when they are your partner or the parent of your children)
- forcing or pressuring you to sign documents, such as:
- A bank loan application
- A mortgage or lease
- A credit card application
- A direct debit contract
- A phone contract
- A document that gives someone else control of your money, property or financial decisions
- A claim for Centrelink payments
Who is responsible for financial abuse?
Financial abuse can happen in any relationship, including with:
- Boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands or wives
- Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
- Carers or paid support workers
- Parents, guardians or other family members
- Adult children
- Other people you live with or see often, whether inside or outside the home
None of these people has the right to force or pressure you into letting them control your money or the things you own.
What to do if you are experiencing financial abuse
Please call us, we can help you. Womensline 1800 811 811 or Mensline 1800 600 636. Our friends at 1800RESPECT have launched a Financial Abuse Toolkit. Within it, 3 women with lived experience of financial abuse discuss their personal experiences. They explain what happened in their situations before and during the abuse occurred. 1800RESPECT Clinical Engagement Manager Inez Carey summarises what financial abuse can look like, and how to reach out for support. Check out the first below:
If you need urgent help with money
- Rent or accommodation
- Paying water, gas or electricity bills
- Food parcels and vouchers for food
- Vouchers for transport or chemist supplies
If you need this kind of support, you can:
- Contact the Department of Social Services on 1300 653 227 and ask to be put through to your local emergency relief service
- Search our friends at 1800RESPECT’s Service directory for emergency relief services near you
- Contact our friends at 1800RESPECT for a referral on 1800 737 732 or through online chat
If you need financial counselling or help with debt
If you are worried about debt you can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. Your call will be answered by independent financial counsellors offering free, confidential advice on:
- Utility bills, such as gas, electricity, phone and internet
- Mortgage payments or rent
- Credit cards and personal loans
- Centrelink issues
- Joint debts
- Generally sorting out your finances
You can also get help from the National Debt Helpline website. The website has information about common financial problems and guides on how to manage them.
Learn more about the other types of abuse.