Financial abuse is a lesser known, but critical component that abusers use to exert control over their victims. It can range from denying a spouse access to money to using scams or disingenuous motives to steal money from a senior. Financial abuse is very serious, but there are ways for victims to escape and recover from these situations.
What Is Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse is a broad term that can apply to a lot of different problems that victims experience. But at its core, it involves an abuser either stealing money from someone, denying money from someone or using money to exert control and power over them.
Types of Financial Abuse
- Stealing money from someone
- Taking financial control away from someone
- Placing a spouse or partner on an “allowance” and controlling their access to money
- Recklessly spending someone else’s money
- Tricking a senior into giving their money away in a scam
- Taking advantage of an elderly family member to use their money
While it isn’t as well known as other forms of abuse, it is very common and can play a critical role in serious situations. According to the
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
, financial abuse occurs in 98% of abusive relationships and plays a huge role in preventing victims from escaping those situations.
“That is the No. 1 reason battered women and men do not leave their partners,” Mary Joye, a licensed mental health counselor who has helped people get out of financially abusive situations, told Annuity.org. “They don’t have enough money to leave. That person usually makes sure you don’t have enough money to leave.”
The Warning Signs of Financial Abuse
The warning signs of financial abuse can vary depending on the specific situation. It’s also important to remember that financial abuse often escalates over time.
It may start with something simple, like a small ask for some money or to give up a little bit of control. But it can grow over time and eventually result in a victim.
Better understanding the warning signs can help prevent a situation from escalating out of control.
Elder Financial Abuse
There are few groups who are more at risk for becoming a victim of financial abuse than seniors.
Older adults can be easy targets for financial abuse, especially those who may not be familiar with modern technology, are dealing with issues like dementia or can no longer take care of themselves.
Abusers can include scammers and people who attempt to get into contact with seniors to steal their money. That can come in the form of unsolicited phone calls or emails, where seniors are tricked into a nefarious investment or are convinced they are sending money to a family member when it’s really a scammer.
Unfortunately, caregivers can also be a serious cause of financial abuse in older adults. Seniors who need regular help or cannot take care of themselves can fall victim to their caregivers who may deny care if they don’t receive or have control of the senior’s money.
Denying seniors access to care can force them into desperate situations where they must give money to an abuser.
Family members sometimes participate in financial abuse as well. If a family member takes control of a senior’s finances who can no longer manage it themselves and begins stealing that money, then that is a form of financial abuse.
Financial Abuse in Marriage
Financial abuse can also take place in marriages and relationships and can become a key part of domestic abuse situations.
Money is an everyday necessity, and abusers use that to take control of their victims. By taking control of their partner’s finances, the abuser is able to strip the victim of their independence and make it difficult for them to escape the situation.
“They have this ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, too’ mentality,” Joye said. “If you feel like you are suffering and they’re doing just fine financially, there’s an imbalance of power there. It is usually a power play and a control mechanism.”
Examples of Financial Abuse in a Relationship
- Placing a spouse on an allowance
- Forcing paychecks to be turned over to the abuser
- Withholding access to a credit card
- Denying access to basic resources like food or shelter
On top of controlling a spouse’s access to money, abusers may go even further and prevent them from seeking employment or holding a job.
Financial abuse on the surface may seem like it just involves stealing money, but lack of access to finances can quickly result in a total loss of control over one’s own life.
How To Tell If a Loved One Is Being Financially Abused
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