It is unthinkable that someone you love and care for could be financially taking advantage of you, or somebody close to you.. The truth is, many people around the world have or will experience financial abuse at some stage in their lifetime.
Often the consequences of financial abuse last a lifetime as well, leaving the victim with tens of thousands of dollars of unpaid credit card debts and personal loans.
In this article we help you identify when financial abuse may be happening and some of the options for getting help out of the situation.
Let's take a look at a simple example.
Rebecca was was going through a hard time with her relationship. She was busy taking care of the family but so many times her credit card would be rejected when she was out to buy them something, or to buy herself something, even through she thought she had money in the account. Whenever she would go out with friends for coffee, she would often have her purchases declined and no cash to pay for things.
The issue facing Rebecca is that her partner managed all of their their finances. Her wages were paid into a joint bank account which he always insisted on controlling. All too often he would take out all the money into his own account to feed drinking and gambling habits, leaving nothing left for Rebecca, not even for the basic necessities of the family.
So often this behaviour left Rebecca feeling helpless and completely embarrassed. Her partner's temper was such that she found it impossible to confront him about it and was too shy to reach out to her friends or family for advice as she wanted to keep her troubles private.
This is a classic case of financial abuse.
Financial abuse can take many forms. It can be a partner controlling bank accounts and hiding money, or even making someone sign loan documents they don't understand. A lot of overdue debt credit card and personal loan debt that ends up with debt collectors is a result of financial abuse. The victim is not even aware the debt exists until the debt collection calls start happening.
Often the victim will be asked to sign documents to take out credit, thinking it was a joint application with their partner, only to discover later on that it was only in their name, thus leaving them 100% responsible for the debt when the relationship fails. They are then left to not only pick up the pieces emotionally of a failed relationship or marriage, but to deal with the long lasting impact of overdue debts, credit defaults and debt collection calls.
Sadly, financial abuse usually occurs alongside other types of family violence, such as physical or emotional abuse, and can leave the victim feeling helpless, isolated, depressed, and anxious.
Approximately one in five women and one in ten men will find themselves a victim of financial or economic abuse - this is a staggering percentage. Sadly, the victims sometimes don't even recognise it is happening to them as they become isolated from family or friends due to a partner that is controlling of them. Many fear even talking to their Bank or debt collector about the issue as they fear the partner will find out.
Financial abuse is not just limited to domestic relationships either. Older people are highly vulnerable to financial abuse, especially when they are dependent on others to help look after their affairs and finances, like a family member or friend.
Below are some steps you can take to ensure your money is your own and you do not fall victim to financial abuse.
Check your credit file regularly. Look for any records like new loan applications or new credit providers. This can be an indication that someone has taken out credit in your name without your knowledge. This can be a sign of financial abuse and also fraud or identity theft.
Check your credit card statements and bank accounts for any unusual transactions. Are there sums of money being transferred to a Bank account that you do not recognise? Or payments for something that is clearly not part of the family budget? Stay vigilant so you can pick up on any early warning signs of financial abuse.
Keep all your financial login details secret and in a safe place. This is one of the best ways to prevent unauthorised use and access of your money by someone else. If someone is insisting you share these details with them, be on guard, even if it is your partner. You are fully entitled to have your own confidential access to your money.
Manage your own mail. It is important you understand what correspondence is being sent to you. If you partner or another person takes care of all your mail, it is easy for them to hide things from you, like new loans they are taking out in your name. In this digital world, if they have access to thinks like your drivers licence and passport it is very easy for them to take out loans in your name online. One of the best ways to prevent this or find out if its happening is to open your own mail - whether it is paper based or via email.
Stay connected with family and friends even if your partner tries to stop you. This can be an indicator that financial abuse is taking place, but also emotional abuse. You need connection to family and friends for your own emotional well-being. Through those conversations your family and friends can often sense if something is not right based on your conversations, so it will make it easier for you to get help when you need it.
Do not sign documents you have not read and do not understand. This one is so important. So much debt is due to financial abuse where a partner has forced the person to sign loan documents, leaving them with the burden of debt when the relationship falls apart.
If you feel something is not quite right, seek help from someone you trust or reach out to a number of the professional financial counsellor organisations that exist in your local community. There are a number of groups that exist to help people through the damaging impacts of financial and emotional abuse.
Settled. offer a fully digital solution to help you with debt negotiation. If you are still struggling to deal with debts left over from an abusive relationship then our information guide and debt settlement letter generator may be something that can help you navigate through the situation.
Lenders and Debt Collectors are very aware the damage financial abuse can do and you will find many are more than willing to help you.