How to spot elder financial abuse

Elder financial abuse is not a new problem.

Throughout Australia the elderly have lost their savings, valuables and homes through financial abuse, but it’s only now that serious steps are being taken to address the issue.

What is elder financial abuse?

Elder financial abuse is the theft or improper use of money or assets of an elder person (generally aged 65 or older). “It can include but is not limited to, behaviours such as using finances without permission, using a legal document such as an enduring power of attorney for purposes outside what it was originally signed for, withholding care for financial gain, or selling or transferring property against a person’s wishes.”  It can happen to any elderly person regardless of their socio-economic status.1

It can include a broad range of conduct from deception to intimidation from family members, friends or carers. Whilst the number of Australians suffering financial abuse is unknown, it’s conservatively estimated to be at least 10 per cent of older Australians each year and the perpetrators are most likely their adult children.2

“Elder financial abuse is the theft or improper use of money or assets of an elder person (generally aged 65 or older).”

Common warning signs

A combination of diminished mental capacity and questionable changes in behaviour can be red flags signalling financial exploitation.  Below are some of the things to look out for when catching up with your older family members or friends:

1.     Diminished capacity or vulnerability
  • Signs of depression, loneliness or forgetfulness
  • Changes in their ability to care for themselves or becoming dependent on others for care
  • The person providing your family member or friends care or managing their finances makes you feel uncomfortable
2.  Questionable changes in financial behaviour
  • Suspicious signatures on financial transactions
  • Sudden/unexplained changes to the power of attorney, will or ownership assets
  • A new ‘best friend’ in your family members or friends life who is making decisions
  • Sudden or large amounts of money are give to family, friends, charities or others
  • An overall disappearance of money, valuables or financial statements


What to do if you suspect elder financial abuse?

If you do see the warning signs for financial exploitation, you can call 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) which connects you to information and advice on elder abuse.


1 National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians [Elder Abuse] 2019-2023, Council of Attorneys-General, 19 March 2019.

2 Elder Abuse, Bina Brown,, 2 April 2018. 

Source: Allianz Retire