Be alert to the warning signs of financial abuse
FINANCIAL abuse is more common than many people think and preventing it starts with spotting the warning signs early.
Fresh guidance from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart service has listed eight warning signs, and says sometimes it takes a friend to spot them and help people find support.
“Often it’s someone from outside who will notice a change in behaviour or circumstances,” said MoneySmart senior executive leader Laura Higgins.
Financial abuse – also known as economic abuse – is when a partner, child, other family member or friend manipulates your financial decision making or controls your assets without your consent.
Research released earlier this year by RMIT University found that 15.7 per cent of women had suffered economic abuse from their partners, compared with 7.1 per cent of men.
“We found that economic abuse peaked for both men and women aged in their 40s and 50s,” the RMIT report says.
“We have found that women with disabilities or long-term health conditions, high levels of financial stress and lower levels of education have greater odds of experiencing economic abuse.”
ASIC’s eight warning signs of a financially-abusive relationship are when another person is:
• Controlling your access to bank accounts or other money;
• Not providing enough money to cover living expenses;
• Denying you access to internet, phone or transport that prevents you from working;
• Taking out debts in your name or pressuring you to sign up for loans;
• Making you account for how you spend your money;
• Selling or threatening to sell your property without permission;
• Hiding money from you;
• Making you feel like you are financially incompetent.
Financial abuse also hits older people, and is the most common form of elder abuse.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates between 2 per cent and 10 per cent of Australians experience elder abuse in any given year.
Often it is mothers being abused by sons, although abuse by daughters is also common and fathers are victims too, it says.
Moneysmart.gov.au lists several places to get help and support, including Family Relationship Advice Line, Relationships Australia and Lifeline.
ASIC’s Ms Higgins said the best place to start was 1800 RESPECT, a confidential counselling service, on 1800 737 732.
“That’s operating 24-7 and is Picture: JENNY EVANS quite a substantial service,” she said.
Ms Higgins said for families with ageing parents, discussing financial matters early – and not in a time of crisis – was important. “The earlier you start planning what’s next, the better the chance people are on the same page.”
She said a good way to combat financial abuse was to build knowledge and confidence about money matters.
“If people are more confident in talking about money, they may recognise that things aren’t quite right.”
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