What is financial abuse?

24 May 2024

Financial abuse is when someone controls or manipulates your money and finances. It’s a recognised form of abuse which can have serious consequences on individuals and families.

Financial abuse may occur in a relationship with a partner, a family member, or a mate. Financial abuse can be hard to identify due to the gender and cultural norms associated with money, especially within families and romantic relationships.

If you’re worried financial abuse is happening to you or a loved one, support is available. In this blog post we’ll review signs of financial abuse and how you can protect yourself and your family.


Financial abuse and gambling

When a person is experiencing gambling harm (sometimes known as “problem gambling” or a “gambling addiction”), they may develop behaviours that are financially abusive.

Signs of financial abuse include:

  • Stealing
  • Missing or opened mail
  • Controlling your finances
  • Gambling with your money
  • Large, unexplained cash deposits
  • Being secretive about their money
  • Spending shared money on gambling
  • Gambling from a shared bank account
  • Accumulating debt on joint credit cards
  • Making you ask for money for basic expenses
  • Putting shared financial responsibilities onto you
  • Not having money despite earning a decent wage
  • Making online gambling accounts under your name
  • Asking to borrow money for gambling and not paying it back
  • Unexplained cash withdrawals with your card or shared cards
  • Not contributing to bills because of money spent on gambling
  • Securing a “business loan” for gambling against a joint mortgage
  • Coercing you to take out a loan, credit card, or your superannuation
  • Large amounts of money spent in gaming venues, particularly at odd hours.

In one Australian study of people with lived experience of intimate partner violence related to gambling, nearly every woman reported financial abuse by a male partner experiencing gambling harm.

Often, the full extent of the financial abuse isn’t discovered until later. These discoveries may include realising the extent of debt, theft, or other financial problems.

The most common methods of financial abuse reported in the study included:

  • Lying about money
  • Using their partner’s credit card
  • Forging their partner’s signature on loans
  • Spending their entire income on gambling
  • Preventing their partner from accessing money
  • Gambling money allocated to household expenses
  • Stealing from their partner, children, or family business
  • Withdrawing money from the partner’s accounts without permission.


Protecting yourself from financial abuse when your partner is gambling

If your partner is gambling, it’s critical to protect your finances – even if you believe financial abuse isn’t happening or won’t occur.

Here are some steps you can take to safeguard your money and finances from a partner who gambles:

  • Regularly check and open your own mail
  • Update your bank log-in details and pin codes
  • Keep your bank cards and money in a safe place
  • Regularly check your bank statements / banking app
  • Keep an emergency stash of money hidden in a secure place
  • Close or separate any joint bank accounts you have with them
  • If you lend them money, put it in writing and have a repayment plan.

Here’s some advice on what to do if your partner is gambling.


Support is available

If someone else’s gambling is impacting your life, your family, or your finances, free support is available.

You can call the Gambling Help line at 1800 858 858 – it’s free, confidential, and 24/7. Our experienced Gambling Help counsellors are here to support you.

If this article has brought on further concerns about domestic and family violence, help is available by calling or visiting 1800RESPECT.

Contact us

If gambling is impacting your life or a loved one's life, it's okay to reach out for help. It’s free and confidential.

Call the 24/7 Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858

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