Financial abuse of older people

Content Summary


There are several formal definitions of financial abuse of older people

Definition from The World Health Organisation

"The illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or other resources of the older person."

— The World Health Organisation (2020)

The definition includes acts with adverse outcomes committed not only by people known to and trusted by the victim, but also acts perpetrated by strangers and by institutions.

» For further information view the WHO fact sheet on 'Elder abuse' with key facts and information on the scope of the problem, risk factors, prevention and WHO response. 

Definition from Monash University

Abuse may be intentional or unintentional.

"Intentional financial abuse is the separation of a person from the benefit of their assets for the benefit of another, involving deliberate intention."

— Monash University's Protecting Elders’ Assets Study (2009)

"Unintentional financial abuse is the inadvertent or uninformed financial mismanagement or neglect of financial assets which causes the deprivation of benefits to be derived from those assets."

— Monash University's Protecting Elders’ Assets Study (2009)

» For further information download the Monash University’s Protecting Elders Assets Study (PDF, 500KB)

The Monash study provides the following common examples of financial abuse

  • 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
  • failing to repay loans
  • living with the older person and refusing to contribute money for expenses
  • forging or forcing an older person’s signature
  • promising long-term care in exchange for money or property and then not providing the promised care
  • getting an older person to sign a will, contract or power of attorney through deception, coercion or undue influence
  • abusing joint signatory authority on a blank form
  • getting an older person to be a guarantor for a loan where the benefit of the loan is for someone else, without providing the older person with enough information or knowledge to make an informed decision.

The Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), State Government of Victoria expands upon this list, pointing out that financial abuse is often combined with other forms of abuse and neglect.

» For further information visit Victorian Government's health information webpage on 'Preventing elder abuse'

Special thanks

This initiative is the work of the Victorian Third Age Network. Thank you to all the members involved in the task group, with very special thanks to Jenny Blakey, Seniors Rights Victoria, and Sue Marshall.