Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a form of domestic and family violence. Once you start to recognise the signs you can then get help. This information deals with financial abuse in intimate partner relationships.

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Signs of financial abuse

Financial abuse can be difficult to recognise when you are experiencing the abuse. Financial abuse is usually about power and control. Financial abuse often happens along with other abuse such as verbal abuse and physical abuse.

Financial abuse is often cumulative. This means that one action might seem reasonable, for example, asking you to hand over money once. It is when such requests happen regularly (or constantly) and you start to feel controlled and coerced that it can become financial abuse. It can be very difficult to recognise financial abuse when it has become a way of life. This is why it is so important to talk to someone confidentially about what is happening to you.

There are at least six red flags:


  1. You do not have control over money

Examples include:

  • your partner has taken control of the finances and told you it is to “take the pressure off you”;
  • you have to hand over to your partner any income you earn;
  • your partner is not working or does not contribute to household expenses;
  • you do not have access to any bank accounts;
  • you have to work in a family business without being paid;
  • you are only given an allowance; and
  • you are only given an allowance that does not cover your living expenses.


  1. Your career/work is sabotaged

Examples include:

Your partner makes it difficult for you to:

  • get work
  • keep your job
  • attend your workplace and/or
  • do further training or study.

Your partner can do this by denying you access to:

  • a telephone,
  • the internet, and/or
  • transport such as a car or public transport cards.


  1. Your partner is committing fraud or pressuring you into taking on debt

Examples include:

  • running up debts in your name by using your credit card;
  • pressuring you to sign a loan contract;
  • making you be a guarantor on a loan;
  • putting all the household bills in your name;
  • pressuring you to sign up for Centrelink benefits to which you are not entitled; and
  • forging your signature.


  1. You are being monitored

Examples include:

  • your partner keeps a close eye on what you buy; and
  • your partner makes you account for your spending decisions.


  1. Your partner is secretive about finance

Examples include:

  • hiding money from you;
  • hiding assets from you; and
  • not allowing you to see bank statements.


  1. You are scared to talk about money

Examples include:

  • making you feel incompetent about managing money; and
  • getting angry if you mention money.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know is being financially abused, contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for support and assistance.

Consider the following actions to protect yourself from financial abuse.


Safety first

The first thing you need to do is make sure you are safe. Financial abuse can also lead to, or be accompanied by, physical abuse. Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) if you need information, counselling and/or support (including safety planning). If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

Safety planning can help you reduce the risk of being harmed (including from financial abuse). It is recommended you get the help of a support service to make a safety plan.


Keep important documents (or copies) and information in a safe place

Find a safe place to keep your documents. It could be a safety deposit box, with a trusted friend or any safe and secure place where you can get reliable and easy access.

Protect your:

  • passwords,
  • PINs,
  • Tax File Number and
  • Centrelink Reference Number

Establish a safe mailing address for important correspondence.


Protect your money and assets

Find a safe place to keep money and other valuable assets. Consider opening an account in your name at a different bank from where your joint accounts are held. Keep assets in storage or with a trusted family member or friend.


Protect yourself from getting further into debt

If safe to do so:

  • review joint statements regularly
  • check your credit report. See Get your credit report.
  • if your loan account has a redraw facility, consider cancelling it or requiring two names to sign
  • read all documents before you sign them and get advice


Take care with joint accounts

If you are still living with the partner who is your financial abuser, do not close any joint accounts without getting information and support on safety. If you are now living independently, do close joint accounts and/or move your money to another account.


Start saving

Make a plan to start saving so you have money when required for an emergency. Speak to one of our financial counsellors to get help with budgeting for saving. Ph: 1800 007 007


Get advice on any debts you have and/or making a financial hardship arrangement

You can also call us on 1800 007 007 to speak to one of our financial counsellors for free, confidential advice about any debts you have. This includes debts you got because of the financial abuse. There may be actions you can take to reduce or avoid owing those debts.


Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.