October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and one of the lesser-known types of domestic violence is financial abuse. This can leave victims in a financial crisis, with low credit scores, high amounts of consumer debt, and little to no money in the bank. We will outline how to recognize financial abuse and what to do about it if it happens to you.
Definition of Financial Abuse
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, financial abuse is when “an abuser takes control of finances to prevent the other person from leaving and maintaining power in the relationship.” This type of abuse is unfortunately very common and comes in many forms. Examples of financial abuse include:
- Making big financial decisions without including or consulting the victim.
- Racking up large amounts of debt on joint accounts.
- Ruining the victim’s credit score by refusing to pay bills.
- Not allowing the victim to work and make his/her own money (e.g. sabotaging job interviews).
- Controlling all the victim’s money and only giving him/her an “allowance.”
- Not paying child support .
How to Protect Yourself
It is never the victim’s fault when they find themselves in an abusive situation. Though victims may not be able to predict that this abuse will happen, there are some ways they can protect themselves.
- Save money in an emergency fund. Put it in an account that your abuser is unable to access. That way, you’ll have a cushion in case the abuser takes control of the money you have in other accounts.
- Check your credit report. By checking your credit report, you’ll be able to see what accounts have been opened in your name.
- Freeze your credit. When you freeze your credit, no one can take out loans or open new credit accounts in your name until you unfreeze it.
- Keep your personal information safe. Don’t give out your pin number, and try to use a different password for every account you have. This will also protect you against identity theft.