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UPDATED March 19, 2013

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Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, e.g., maintaining total control over financial resources and withholding access to money, are some forms of financial abuse (also called economic abuse). Below is information on how to handle the aftermath of this type of abuse, including dealing with credit card debt and identity theft.

Basic info

back to topWhat is financial abuse?

Financial abuse is one form of domestic abuse. Withholding money, stealing money and restricting the use of finances are some examples of financial abuse. To figure out if your partner is financially abusing you, think about how you are being treated by answering the following questions.

Does your partner:

  • Steal money from you or your family?
  • Force you to give him/her access to your bank accounts to make transactions without your input?
  • Make you feel as though you don't have a right to know any details about money or household resources?
  • Put you on an “allowance” even if you object to this?
  • Force to you to account for all money you spend by, for example, asking for receipts?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school or skill-training sessions?
  • Overuse your credit cards or refuse to pay the bills (thus ruining your credit)?
  • Withhold physical resources from you including food, clothes, necessary medications or shelter?
  • Force you to turn over your paychecks or public benefit payments?
  • Force you to cash in, sell or sign over any financial assets you own (e.g., bonds, stock or property)?
  • Force you to agree to power-of-attorney so s/he can sign legal documents?
  • Force you to work in a family business for little or no pay?*
If you have answered “yes” to more than one of these questions, your partner may be financially abusing you.  Where there is financial abuse, there may also likely be other forms of abuse in your relationship. To see if you are being emotionally, physically, or sexually abused, you can go to the following pages on our website: Am I Being Abused? and Domestic Violence.

* Information adapted from The Allstate Foundation's & NNEDV’s "Moving Ahead Through Financial Empowerment Curriculum"

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back to topThe abuser has access to all my financial and identity information. What can I do?

If the abuser has access to your credit card statements, Social Security number or other identifying information, this can make it easier for him/her to open up accounts in your name or access current accounts. (If s/he has your children’s Social Security numbers, s/he can even try to open accounts in your children’s names.) You might want to consider taking proactive measures to keep your personal information safe.

Some actions you can take are to call your bank and credit card companies and ask that they change your account numbers, PIN numbers, passwords and other access codes. Try to create passwords that would be hard for someone to guess. If you access your bank account through your personal computer or if you store your financial information on your personal computer, make sure you are using a safe computer that the abuser cannot access and has not installed spyware on. To read more about keeping your computer safe, go to our Internet Security page. If appropriate and possible, you may want to consider enrolling in a reputable credit protection program through your current credit card company or bank. Please note, there may be a one-time or annual fee associated with such protection.


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back to topThe abuser has asked me to co-sign on a loan or credit card. Is that a good idea?

Generally, it is not a good idea to co-sign any financial contracts, including credit cards, with someone you do not trust completely to be honest and responsible about paying it off.  If something happens, such as the other person disappears or refuses to make payments, you can be held responsible for paying off the debt and your credit can be ruined if you don’t make timely payments.  If you have already co-signed on a loan or credit card and the other person has failed to make payments, please read information under the section After the abuser has taken your money and/or run up debt in your name.

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