Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a way of controlling a person’s ability to earn, use and maintain their own money and resources.

This type of abuse can take many forms, but can include:

  • Controlling your bank account, and access to it
  • Preventing you from earning your own money
  • Running up debts in your name
  • Making you hand over your wages or benefits
  • Stealing, taking or demanding money from you
  • Not allowing you to spend money on yourself or your children
  • Putting contractual obligations in your name
  • Making you account for every penny you spend (for example, by showing receipts)

Financial abuse can leave victims with no money for basic essentials, no access to their own bank accounts or independent income, and debts set against their names.

If you are separated and have children, the abuser may withhold child maintenance payments as another means of financial abuse.

Economic abuse extends to the perpetrator controlling the victim’s present or future earning potential by preventing them from accessing education or employment.

This may also involve behaviours such as:

  • Trying to stop you, or control, your work or how you earn money
  • Controlling your studying
  • Depriving you of basic needs such as food, shelter, sleep, or assistive aids to impair your ability to work
  • Controlling, or trying to control, your use of the telephone, car or internet
  • Preventing you from keeping or seeking employment
  • Demanding that you quit your job
  • Harassing you at work
  • Sabotaging your job

Spot the signs

Refuge has created a list of questions that might help you recognise whether you are experiencing financial abuse.

Does/did your partner:

  • Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work, college or university?
  • Ask you to account for every penny you spend?
  • Check your receipts or bank statement so they can monitor how much you are spending?
  • Keep log-in details, bank cards or PINs for any joint accounts so you do not have access to it?
  • Insist on controlling all financial matters?
  • Place debts in your name?
  • Withhold child maintenance payments?

If any of these situations feel familiar, you may be experiencing financial abuse.


  • Contact Refuge to speak to someone about your options on 0800 408 1552
  • Account security – make sure only you know your PIN and passwords for financial accounts. If you think your partner may have access to these, you could consider changing them
  • Joint accounts – you do not have to agree to open a joint account. If you have a joint account already, then you can ask to freeze this, meaning neither you nor your partners can take money from the account. This action could increase your risk of harm, so taking expert advice from a domestic abuse specialist (such as Refuge) might help to ensure you can manage a problematic joint account safely
  • Know where your important financial documents are kept
  • Consider talking to a financial expert – free services such as Citizen’s Advice, or the Money Advice Service can help. Be sure to make them aware of your situation, so they are alert to any harm that may arise from any decisions made