Financial abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, health status or living arrangements.

Abusers tend to target:

  • the elderly
  • people with a disability or mental illness
  • those who are socially isolated.

A financial abuser is anyone who manipulates, threatens, pressures or insists you give them access to your money, property or other valuables – or accesses your finances without your consent.

I need help

If you are an older South Australian or adult living with disability, vulnerable to abuse or are being abused, you can take action and make a report or seek advice by:

  • calling the Adult Safeguarding Unit via South Australia's Abuse Prevention Phone Line on 1800 372 310 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)
  • emailing the ASU at adultsafeguardingunit@sa.gov.au
  • contact the Translating & Interpreter Services (TIS) on 131 450 if you need an interpreter.

For more information see the SA Health website.

Anyone can make a report and you can remain anonymous if you like.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse takes many different forms and may include when someone:

  • uses your money, credit cards, bank cards or other valuables without your consent.
  • forges your signature to access your money or property
  • threatens or pressures you to give them money
  • insists that you mortgage your home or invest in a particular scheme
  • pressures you to agree to unnecessary home or garden maintenance – or overcharges for the services (this includes pressure directly from a tradesperson)
  • pressures you to make unfair payments towards their expenses
  • misleads or threatens you to change your Will, Power of Attorney or other legal documents.

Signs of financial abuse

Financial abuse can be difficult to recognise – but some of the signs include:

  • a person making financial decisions for you but not making sure you understand those decisions or what they mean for you
  • being contacted by people who ask you for money – including people who claim to be from charities that may be familiar to you
  • unusual activities in your bank accounts – your money is disappearing and you don’t know where it’s gone
  • bills not being paid or your savings accounts are overdrawn
  • documents, credit cards, bank cards and personal belongings going missing
  • being asked to sign documents to transfer your home into another person’s name or take a reverse mortgage on your home
  • being advised to make changes to a Will, Power of Attorney or other legal documentation – and not understanding why.

How to reduce your risk

If you are being asked to do something that doesn’t feel right to you, trust your instincts. Don’t take any action until you speak to someone you trust.

You can take some precautions to protect yourself from financial abuse including:

  • making sure you are aware of and follow the advice of your bank to keep your bank details secure
  • keeping important documents in a safe place
  • not keeping large sums of cash at home or in your purse or wallet
  • not signing any documents unless you clearly understand what you are being asked to sign
  • contacting your bank straight away if you notice any unusual activity
  • speaking with a trusted family member, friend or advisor about any financial decisions you don’t feel comfortable about
  • not giving financial details to someone who has called you over the phone – even if they claim to be from a charity you have heard about.

Alliance for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

The Public Trustee is a member of the Alliance for the Prevention of Elder Abuse – a group of South Australian agencies who work together to share knowledge and raise awareness of elder abuse.

The Alliance has created a number of video resources to give an overview of free services available to address elder abuse.

The Alliance includes:

  • Office for the Public Advocate
  • SA Police
  • Legal Services Commission
  • Aged Rights Advocacy Service