Domestic abuse can take multiple forms, and while physical abuse tends to attract more attention, financial abuse is a dangerous practice which often flies under the radar. Financial abuse is dangerous, and may be accommodated with, or lead to emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal abuse. Financial abuse is when someone, typically your partner, attempts to gain control over your bank accounts and finances. Many may be unaware of the abuse, and give in to them because they feel powerless.
What are the different types of financial abuse?
There are many types of financial abuse that may not be recognized easily. Here are signs that you may be subjected to financial abuse:
- If your partner is restricting or limiting you from directly accessing your own bank accounts, it is likely that your partner has control over your account, and could be using your money to pay for their own expenses instead of going to work themselves. They would force you to go to work and earn money, and then have you hand over your check to them. This could become a repetitive cycle if not stopped immediately.
- If your partner is monitoring what you spend your money on, it could be because they want you to spend less on yourself so that they can use your money for themselves. They would not let you purchase anything with your money unless they allow it. They could force you to buy things that you do not want. They are essentially using your income for their own expenditures.
- If your partner is not letting you see your credit card statements, it is possible that your partner is using your credit card without your permission. If this is the case, then they would make excuses and get you to understand, but you should know that they will only continue to use your credit card if you do not report it or change your information.
- There is no reason why your partner is creating credit accounts under your name and personal information. If they are, then they are probably using it, and expect you to pay off the debt. This could hurt your good credit that you have build up if you do not pay back the debt or constantly miss your payment date. It is likely that they have access to your Social Security Number and personal information that should not be shared.
- When you question your partner’s behavior, they begin to verbally or physically abuse you. You should never stay in a abusive relationship or try to rationalize with your partner because it will not work. They will only continue to abuse you and it will get worse over time. If you ever suspect your partner early, make sure to contact an official to evaluate your situation and suggest solutions.
- Elders are common victims of financial abuse because abusers like to target vulnerable victims, such as elders who have deteriorating physical and mental health. If you notice that your elder family members are unusually spending more money, losing their valuable assets and cash, or suddenly change the information of a will, trust, or designated beneficiaries, then it is likely that they are under financial abuse.
The financial abuse case of Mickey Rooney
Anyone can become a victim of financial abuse. Even the renown actor, Mickey Rooney was once a victim of financial abuse. Rooney was divorced four times. Although he earned so much money from acting in over 200 movies that anyone would think he was living a good life, he was actually not earning enough to pay for his spendings. In 1988, Rooney appointed his stepson, Christopher Aber to manage his personal and financial affairs. Aber and his wife began to control Rooney’s bank accounts, stole his money for their own expenses, and verbally abused Rooney. They did not provide Rooney with basic necessities including food and medicine, and did not let him see his own financial statements. Rooney felt helpless, afraid, and trapped.
In September 2011, Rooney no longer stayed silent. With the help of his conservator, he filed a elder abuse suit against Aber and his wife with evidence that they had been financially abusing him in many ways. He had to protect his remaining assets and retrieve what was unjustly stolen from him. In October 2013, Rooney and his conservator agreed to a stipend judgment of $2.8 million from the Abers. Rooney was able to win his fight, spread awareness of financial abuse, and inspire many other victims to speak up about their problems.
How do you protect against financial abuse?
Make sure you have at least one person you trust and can rely on such as friends and family members, so that if you have any problems, you can always call them for assistance. Also, having a third party support from financial advisors and insurance companies can be helpful in detecting a problem before it occurs or gets worse.
If you suspect that an abuser has access to your financial and personal information, you must take action early. Call your credit card company to change your account number, pin number, passwords, etc. Be careful to shred important personal or financial information instead of just throwing it in the garbage. Hide your information and valuables in safe places where the abuser cannot find them. You could also apply for a credit protection program through your bank.
Don’t be pressured by anyone into doing something that you refuse to do such as signing documents, buying items, or giving away your assets. If you do not trust your partner, then try to avoid creating joint-credit accounts or co-sign for a financial credit account.
How can an attorney help protect you from financial abuse?
It is always better to protect yourself from abuse than to try to resolve the problem after it occurs. Guardianship is one way to protect yourself. Guardianship is when the court appoints an individual to make legal decisions for an incapacitated person. A guardian can assist with financial, health, and personal needs. They can manage the ward’s financial decisions, bank accounts, investments, assets, medical treatment, and living conditions. Having a guardian will protect you from financial abuse and other types of abuse from others because they are in control of your financial needs and will make sure that you make good decisions. They will keep your accounts and assets safe from an abuser, and advise you on the financial decisions that you make so that you do not end up signing documents that you do not understand. If worst comes to worst, your guardian can take action by filing a claim to free you from financial abuse and help you regain your lost assets.
Setting up a revocable trust is another way to protect yourself against financial abuse. If you set up a revocable trust, you will retain ownership of your assets, and after death, your assets will be transferred to your designated beneficiaries without having to go through the lengthy and expensive process of probate. Planning ahead will ensure that your wishes are fulfilled and your assets end up where you want it to go.
Lastly, executing a power of attorney allows you to choose someone to manage your finances and estate planning if you become mentally incapacitated. Make sure that you consult with an attorney and choose someone who you can trust and will help you with their resources. You can choose the amount of power they have over your finances. They are usually responsible for sending copies of all transactions, bank, credit card, and investment statements to your financial team monthly. This makes it harder for any abuser to attempt to steal your money, or influence you to give them your information and assets.
Do you know someone who is a victim of financial abuse?
Financial abuse cases are rising, making it more likely for anyone to become a victim. Elders are especially vulnerable to financial abuse because they are seen as weak minded.
If you recognize signs that you may become a victim of financial abuse, or if you suspect any of your family members or friends as being a victim of financial abuse, seek help immediately. Confront the abuser and find trusted friends, family, or authorities who you can get help from. There are various social services agencies that can help you on your issue, even if you call anonymously. The abuse will only get worse if you do not put it to a stop early. Take action and protect yourself against financial abuse before it occurs. Speak to an attorney or any other authorities who can advise you on your issue and determine the best course of action. At the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn, we are committed to preventing this sort of abuse. Visit our website or call (718)-333-2394 to schedule a consultation today.