Your Life

Financial abuse: how to spot the warning signs and protect yourself

- August 25, 2021 2 MIN READ
How to protect yourself from financial abuse

Women are twice as likely as men to be the victims of financial abuse. It may seem that it’s all about money, but it’s really about power and control.

Financial abuse describes a situation when someone you’re in a relationship with is stopping you from accessing your money, negatively influencing your decisions about money or using your money without your consent.

It’s recognised as a type of domestic abuse and women are twice as likely to be the victims of financial abuse. Statistics reveal that 15.7 per cent of women have experienced financial abuse, compared to 7.1 per cent of men.

In some cases it’s about money, but it is more likely to be about power, control and wanting to create dependency. 

Recognise the warning signs

According to Australian Government website MoneySmart, financial abuse can take on many forms. Some of the early warning signs include someone:

  • making you feel like you don’t understand or are no good with money
  • offering to manage your money for you
  • questioning or monitoring your spending
  • making you ask their permission before spending your own money

Limiting your access to money could include someone demanding you withdraw money from your account and give it to them. Or when another person controls all your bank accounts and credit cards and prevents you from having access.

Financial abuse can also be someone not paying their fair share. For example, if you live with someone who refuses to contribute to the cost of bills, the rent or mortgage and other household expenses.

It can also describe a situation where someone is stealing from you by forging your signature on financial documents, transferring money from your bank accounts, using your credit card without your permission or accumulating debts in your name.

In some of its most extreme forms, financial abusers prevent their victims from working. They essentially hold them captive and often physically or emotionally abuse their victims by threatening, hurting or punishing them.

How to protect yourself against financial abuse

Financial abusers can be very manipulative, but there are way to guard yourself against becoming a victim. Three of the best ways to protect yourself are:

  1. Knowing what financial abuse looks like
  2. Understanding and taking an interest in your money
  3. Being cautious when combining your finances with another person

Other tips include always making sure you fully understand any financial documents before signing them, and documenting the terms of any loans you make to friends or family members.

If you do give control of any aspect of your money management to another person, check in with them regularly. That way you can keep on top of your current financial situation.

In order to protect your money you should always store financial and personal documents in a safe place. You should also keep account logins and passwords to yourself. Check your bank account and credit card statements or online banking regularly for any transactions that look unfamiliar or suspicious.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, have access to emergency money by keeping a separate bank account in your name alone. Without money it can be difficult to leave a financially (or physically or emotionally) abusive situation. While there are organisations and charities that will help, having an emergency fund might be the difference between feeling able or unable to leave a financially abusive situation.

If this article has raised any concerns or issues for you, you can contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or domestic violence charity White Ribbon on 1800 737 732.