Are you at risk of elder financial abuse?

The sustained cost-of-living crisis, record house price increases, and increased life expectancies are contributing factors to inheritance impatience and elder abuse1 – as the loved ones of older Australians wait longer for the transfer of wealth. 

Key learnings:

  1. What is elder financial abuse?
  2. Who’s at risk and how can it be prevented?
  3. The resources available and how we can help. 

While many of us want to help our loved ones out financially if our situation allows, it could have serious consequences for your own retirement. Not only could it create tax issues, it could also make you ineligible for Centrelink support, create feuds with family members, or cause anxiety or depression. We’ve all heard of stories of more extreme cases too – like people losing their home after going guarantor for a child or grandchild.

Here’s how to spot the signs and how you can stop it from happening. Remember, if you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse from loved ones, know there’s help available. 

What is elder financial abuse?

The truth is, elder financial abuse can take many forms. It happens when a trusted person - most often within the family - misuses their position and causes financial harm to an older person. Common examples of financial abuse include (but are not limited to): 

  • theft
  • misappropriating or misusing money, property or assets
  • exerting undue influence to give away assets or gifts
  • putting undue pressure on the older person to accept lower-cost or lower-quality services to preserve financial resources to be passed to beneficiaries on death
  • carrying out unnecessary work or overcharging for a service
  • misusing of powers of attorney
  • denying access to funds
  • forging or forcing an older person’s signature
  • pressure to act as guarantor. 

A recent national survey2 of 7,000 people aged 65 and over found that 2% had reported experiencing financial abuse, with many cases going unreported due to shame or embarrassment.

Who’s at risk?

Financial abuse could happen to anyone – even you - but some people are at greater risk. You have a higher risk if you’re socially isolated, physically or mentally impaired, have low financial literacy, reliant on others for care, or if you’ve have been subject to other types of abuse. If it’s happening to you or someone you love – sometimes it can also be tricky to spot until it’s too late.  

How can I stop it from happening?

Here’s 8 steps to help you reduce your risk of financial abuse. 

  1. If somebody asks you for money and you’re uncomfortable about it, seek help from a someone you trust
  2. If you do lend money to someone, ensure the arrangement is in writing and have it reviewed by a lawyer before you sign on the dotted line
  3. Always protect your cards, passwords and other important documents 
  4. Set up direct debits and pre-authorised bill payments
  5. Consider the trustworthiness of anyone who has third-party authority on any accounts 
  6. Keep a close eye on your bank and super statements, as well as any other assets (you can find a copy of your superannuation statements in the ‘Annual statements’ section of MemberOnline) 
  7. Get your affairs in order as early as possible, in case you lose the mental capacity later in life 
  8. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’, your ongoing financial security is important.  

Where to get help

If you’re concerned about abuse happening to yourself or your partner, you can contact the Elder Abuse phone line (1800 ELDERHelp). This is a free phone line that has been set up in collaboration with state and territory governments. It will automatically redirect you to the phone service in your state or territory.

If you’re worried about an issue with your superannuation, or need help managing your account, we’re here to help. Call 1300 360 149 8am-8pm Monday to Friday (AET). And remember, you have access to financial advice to sort your super at no extra cost.* Book a call-back.


1Super Guide: Elder abuse: How to spot the signs and reduce risk (
*Financial advice obtained over the phone, or through MemberOnline, is provided by Mercer Financial Advice (Australia) Pty Ltd (MFAAPL) ABN 76 153 168 293, Australian Financial Services Licence #411766

Information correct as at 18 June 2024.