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What You Should Know About Financial Abuse

Emily Clemens • October 22, 2021

Financial abuse takes away someone’s right to manage and spend their own money. Learn more about signs and implications of financial abuse.

Financial abuse is a serious circumstance where someone doesn’t have control over their own finances. It can happen to anyone and often involves those close to you. Learn more about financial abuse to help make sure your money and rights are protected. 

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What Is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, is when someone controls how you handle and spend your money. Oftentimes, it occurs with someone close to you, such as a spouse, caregiver, or family member. 

This can take many different forms and may not always be obvious to the victim.  


Who Can Experience Financial Abuse?

Anyone can become a victim of economic abuse. Victims can include: 

  • Parents
  • Children
  • Spouses
  • Partners
  • Siblings
  • Senior citizens

Many cases of financial abuse affect elderly individuals or those with disabilities: When they are reliant on a caregiver to help manage their finances, their money may be handled inappropriately, without their knowledge. 


Examples of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can appear in different ways. It may look like: 

  • A spouse asks their partner to account for every penny they’ve spent, what they spent it on, and why. 
  • An adult child asks their parents to borrow money over and over again, without paying them back. 
  • A hired caregiver tricks a senior into writing them a check or giving them money they aren’t entitled to. 
  • A family member sells another family member’s home, other property, or belongings, and pockets the money for themself. 

These are just a handful of economic abuse examples. Signs of financial abuse to look out for are when one person controls or withholds money from another person. Abusers have various reasons for committing financial abuse. It can be a result of greed, an unhealthy relationship, or financial troubles.

Avoiding Financial Abuse

To avoid financial abuse, it’s important to be aware of what it is and what it looks like. Make sure you keep track of your finances. Know who has access to your money, and pay attention to anyone interested in your finances. 

When sharing finances with a spouse, child, family member, or another person, establish boundaries. Understand how much influence the other person will have on what goes in and out of your bank account before entering a financial relationship with them. For many couples, having both an individual and joint bank account is a great way to have both separate and shared money. 

If you lend someone money, be careful how much you lend to them, make note of the transaction, and set clear expectations for if and when they will pay you back. 

For large financial decisions or transactions that involve property, consider legal counsel. A notary, lawyer, or another advisor can help you understand any financial risks you’re taking. 

Seeking Help for Financial Abuse

If you think you might be a victim of financial abuse, seek help and utilize the resources available to you. There are often resources specific to your situation, such as instances involving elderly individuals or financial abuse as a form of domestic abuse. 

Financial Abuse FAQs

For more information about financial abuse, check out the questions and answers below.

What is an example of financial abuse?

One example of financial abuse is a family member frequently asking to borrow money, but never paying you back. It may also look like a partner questioning everything you’re spending and controlling your finances. 

Is financial abuse a crime?

Financial abuse can be a crime. Depending on what occurs, it can be considered fraud, embezzlement, or extortion. It can also be a form of domestic or elderly abuse.

What are signs of financial abuse?

Signs of financial abuse might be random withdrawals from your account, sudden transfer of assets, controlling behavior when it comes to money, reckless use of your credit, or constant arguments about money.

Bottom Line

Financial abuse is a serious topic and not something that should be taken lightly. If you think you or someone else may be a victim of financial abuse, it’s important to take action and seek help. 

By understanding what economic abuse looks like, you can help make sure you and your money are safe from abusers. 

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