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Financial abuse

Anyone can be a victim of financial abuse — find out how to recognise it, who to contact when it’s happening and how to protect yourself in the future.

If you’re concerned for your or someone’s safety

Services and support contact details for anyone experiencing abuse — Domestic and family violence 

Examples of financial abuse

Financial abuse can be when someone steals your money or property, fails to repay money you’ve lent them, or forces you to give them money or sell your property for their benefit.

How to recognise if someone is being abused

A person who is being financially abused might:

  • not have enough money for essential things like food, power bills or medicine
  • avoid social activities or drop hobbies because they cannot afford them
  • be reluctant to make a will, or
  • not want to talk about budgets.

You might also notice that:

  • their savings are disappearing
  • their possessions have disappeared
  • their house has been sold but they’re not sure why
  • signatures on documents or cheques do not resemble their signature, or
  • there have been unusual withdrawals from their bank accounts.

How to recognise a financial abuser

A financial abuser is someone who:

  • takes your money or possessions without your knowledge or approval
  • fails to repay loans you’ve made to them
  • lives in your home, uses your phone, electricity and water, and eats your food without contributing to the costs
  • forces you to provide them with money or property
  • pressures you into selling your house and then using that money for themselves
  • abuses their enduring power of attorney (EPoA) over your property.

Who to contact if you suspect financial abuse

Scams

Learn more about how to recognise a scam and what to do if you think you’ve been scammed.

Scams

These organisations offer advice on relationship scams.

Older person concerns

Financial abuse is a particular problem for older New Zealanders and it’s often family members who are responsible.

Examples of financial abuse can be misuse of EPoAs, adults not paying their own way or denying access to care services.

Learn more about how to recognise financial abuse.

Financial elder abuse: know the signs — Public Trust

Contact the following organisations for free, confidential advice.

Te Tari Kaumātua — Office for Seniors

Age Concern

Residential care or caregiver concerns

If the abuser is a staff member or volunteer at a rest home, first complain to the rest home manager, or support service provider.

Bank account or money concerns

If you suspect someone of financial abuse, such as accessing bank funds for their personal financial gain, contact your bank. Depending on your situation, the bank may investigate and help you change your account and login details.

Protecting yourself from financial abuse — NZ Bankers Association

Separation and divorce

Use the Ministry of Justice’s online tool to find out more about money, debt, and things to do when you separate.

Relationship break up — Ministry of Justice

If you’re separating and have concerns about transactions on joint accounts or debt, speak to your bank. For example, an option may be to suspend an account, while you and your partner reach agreement on who can use an account and how.

Relationships and break-ups — Community Law NZ

If you think the bank was at fault — by allowing someone else to withdraw money — complain to the bank.

If you’ve made a complaint and are unhappy with the bank’s response, you can contact the Banking Ombudsman.

Complain about your bank

Protect yourself from financial abuse

Get advice

You can seek independent advice before:

  • signing contracts
  • making major decisions, such as selling a family home
  • becoming a guarantor for someone — if they can’t pay back the loan, you’ll become responsible for the debt.

If you don’t have a lawyer, you can ask a Community Law Centre for advice.

Community Law

EPoA for property

An EPoA for property can offer some protection. It’s a legal document that means someone you trust can make decisions for you about your money, house, land and belongings if you’re unable to cope. Find out more on Te Tari Kaumātua — Office for Seniors’ website.

Enduring power of attorney: protect your future — Office for Seniors

Your will

Make sure you have an up-to-date will and that your family knows about it. Check the Sorted website’s guide on wills

Wills — Sorted

Other free support

Shine:

Shakti NZ:

It’s Not Okay: 

Women’s Refuge: 

Utility links and page information

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