New research has found that a fifth of adults in Ireland have been the victim of financial abuse.

The study also found that many older adults do not think that financial abuse could happen to them.

The survey of 1,000 adults was carried out by Red C on behalf of the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland as part of a campaign to highlight the need for greater awareness of the issue.

It found 20% of adults have experienced financial abuse, either now or previously.

One in ten of those said the abuse involved someone using their property or possessions without permission.

While 8% said an income earning adult living with them had refused to contribute to household bills.

6% said someone else was making decisions about their finances without asking them.

And 4% said that they had money taken or used from a joint account without their agreement.

But despite the real risks, two in every five said they were not concerned about the threat of such abuse in the future, with older people the least worried.

76% of respondents said they would be likely to speak with their bank or An Post if they suspected financial abuse.

Just 6% of adults had put in place an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), which is very low by international standards.

An EPA is a legal document that enables you to choose a person to manage your property and affairs in the event of you becoming mentally incapacitated.

The BPFI said people should take steps to ensure they are protected by understanding and organising their day to day banking, checking accounts regularly and by putting an EPA in place.

They should also talk to their banks and An Post who are developing policies to help.

"We all need to prepare for the likelihood that one day we may need help managing our affairs due to a serious illness, accident or aging, and our message is that people should 'have that conversation' with someone they can trust and plan ahead for the future of their finances in order to protect themselves from financial abuse," said its Head of Sustainable Banking, Louise O’Mahony.

While Safeguarding Ireland said it was important for adults, particularly older people, to plan ahead to avoid financial abuse.

"When people don’t have their choices, preferences and decisions legally stated and have a life-changing accident, become seriously ill, or frail due to age they are reliant on the honesty of friends and family," said Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson, Patricia Rickard-Clarke.

"Safeguarding Ireland encourages all adults to talk about their wishes, plan ahead and avoid financial abuse."