Financial Abuse and Fraud are different types of financial misconduct. Regardless of how they happen, both involve someone taking your money and / or property. It is important to learn how to recognize and protect yourself against all forms of financial abuse and misconduct.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is when a person you trust violates that trust and gains financially at your expense. Financial abuse is the most common form of abuse against older adults and is the fastest growing form of abuse against adults with disabilities. According to Elder Abuse Ontario, financial abuse is most often committed by a person the abused person knows, in particular; family members, friends and associates.

Research indicates financial abuse against older adults (ages 60 and up) and people with disabilities (including brain injury), is a growing problem:

  • 4%, or 60,000, older adults in Ontario report being a victim of elder abuse, and more than 60% or 36,000 of these cases involve financial misconduct.
    (Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • It is estimated that only 1 in 5 victims report abuse, making these numbers a lot higher.
  • Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 19% of seniors have experienced financial or psychological abuse. The WHO also purposes that only 1 in 24 cases are reported, suggesting staggering numbers worldwide.
  • Statistics about financial abuse of people who live with cognitive impairments, such as Acquired Brain Injury, are hard to come by because the majority of this abuse is hidden and never reported

Financial abuse can happen anywhere:

  • In your home
  • In a seniors’ residence or long term care facility
  • In a hospital

Financial abuse can be VERY OBVIOUS or VERY HARD to spot.

More OBVIOUS examples of FINANCE ABUSE are:

  • Stealing money from your wallet
  • Cashing a cheque in your name and keeping the money
  • Stealing expensive items from your home
  • Stealing your identity to access your bank account, credit card etc.


  • When someone claims to want to “help” with the grocery shopping and asks to use your debit or credit card to buy groceries – but they use your card for their own purposes
  • When someone pressures you to hand over expensive items that are yours. For example, “I could help you more if I could have your car.”
  • When someone pressures you to buy them expensive items. For example, “My fridge is broken, and I can’t afford to buy a new one, if only someone could loan me the money.”
  • When someone lives with you and does not contribute to household expenses
  • If they are your Power of Attorney, and are not letting you access your own money
  • Feeling pressured to sign documents when you don’t understand them

Single instances of financial abuse are very rare, financial abuse most often occurs in patterns which are repeated over time. A person can be tricked into signing papers or giving away their financial information.They may feel pressured to do what their abuser asks because they need them for practical help and / or companionship and don’t want to lose the relationship.

If you think you are being abused, help is available. Call your local Police Department and see our Resources page for more information.

In Toronto call the Police at: 416-808-2222.

Risk Factors

While financial abuse can happen to anyone, at any time, there are certain periods in a person’s life when they are more likely to be exploited. Unfortunately, this usually happens when a person has been through a difficult life transition and are more vulnerable. It is also more likely to happen to people who are socially isolated, and who have health conditions which make them more dependant on others.

You are at a higher risk of being abused financially:

  • If you are an older adult
  • If you live alone
  • If your spouse has recently died
  • After a health crisis or if you are in poor health
  • If you live with a cognitive issue, such as Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), or age-related Cognitive Impairment

There are many forms of abuse. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a person to experience multiple kinds of abuse at the same time. Other types of abuse are:

  • Psychological Abuse – words and/or actions meant to frighten, control or isolate you
  • Sexual Abuse – non-consensual unwanted sexual touching and / or activity
  • Physical Abuse – any bodily contact with force, intended to harm
  • Neglect – when your required needs go ignored, this can include failure to assist with feeding, bathing, etc.
  • Medical Abuse – someone preventing you from seeking medical treatment
  • Medication Abuse – someone withholding medication from you

If you think you or someone you know is being abused, there is help available. Call your local Police Department and see our Resources page for more information.

In Toronto call the Police at: 416-808-2222.


The article, ‘Starting over: How to rebuild your finances after experiencing financial abuse’, links to resources in the U.S, but offers useful information about how to rebuild your finances after being financially abused. Read it, HERE.

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