What is financial abuse?
When you hear the word abuse, it’s natural to think about verbal bullying or physical violence.
The truth is that there are other forms of abuse, and some are much more prevalent than you may realise.
Financial abuse can manifest in many ways, and it can involve partners, relatives, friends or even people who don’t know their abuser well.
If you’re a victim of financial abuse, you could find yourself in a lot of debt due to being coerced into spending or borrowing money or co-signing a loan or acting as a guarantor for somebody else.
One of the most dangerous aspects of financial abuse is that it can often be very subtle.
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Some people don’t notice that others are taking advantage of them and exploiting their kindness or generosity.
Unfortunately, it’s often too late by the time victims realise what is happening, and they find themselves burdened with debt.
Almost 65% of people who suffer financial abuse know their abuser, and in many cases, the individual is a trusted friend, relative or neighbour.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable.
It is estimated that 10% of seniors in Canada experience financial abuse every year.
Warning signs of financial abuse that can lead to debt problems
Signs of financial abuse can often be difficult to spot.
Here are some red flags to look out for:
- Taking control of your account or your wages.
- Excessive use of joint accounts and encouraging you to put all your money into a shared account.
- Co-signing loans or credit cards.
- Putting pressure on you to borrow money or to pay using credit cards.
- Taking money without permission.
- Misusing your bank cards.
- Selling your belongings without permission.
- Coercing you into making decisions that could put your finances at risk.
- Receiving alerts for payments or transactions you have not made yourself.
- Receiving calls or letters from creditors demanding money.
If you suspect that a partner, relative or a friend is trying to take advantage of you, and you’re worried about your credit rating or amassing debts, it’s crucial to seek help as soon as possible.
There are organisations that can provide advice and prevent continued abuse.
There are also steps you can take to minimise risks, including:
- Avoid setting up joint accounts or taking out joint debts, for example, loans and supplementary credit cards.
- Keep checking your statements.
- Use passwords to protect online accounts and change access codes frequently.
- Don’t sign any contracts or applications unless you are happy to do so and you have read the full terms and conditions.
Not everyone will be familiar with financial abuse, but it is commonplace.
If you’re worried that you have been a victim of financial abuse, it’s beneficial to reach out.
Abuse is a breach of your rights, and you are not to blame.
There is support out there.
If you have questions or concerns, we can help.
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