What You Can Do to Help Keep Yourself Safe from Abuse
Abuse happens to people of all ages from all walks of life. By staying involved with people and activities, you are less likely to be abused. Staying active also helps you stay healthy. There are some things you can do to look after your physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
- Stay connected. Be in regular contact with people who support you and respect your decisions.
- Get involved. Find places in your community that offer activities and events where you can meet people with similar interests.
- Have fun. Do things that give you enjoyment, strength and comfort.
- Stay physically active. Keep moving and eat regularly and well.
- Get support. If you feel depressed, scared or alone, talk to a friend, faith leader or social service agency. You don’t have to be alone with your problems. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help.
Pay Attention to Your Finances:
Your peace of mind about financial security is important. Stay involved in and aware of what is happening with your money, property and belongings. Financial abuse happens when someone you know tries to take or control what belongs to you for their own benefit, not yours.
It is useful to have someone you trust help you with your financial affairs. Their responsibility is to protect your wellbeing and financial interests.
How Does Financial Abuse Happen?
Financial abuse can happen in many different ways. The following are some common examples:
- Stealing money, bank cards, credit cards, and/or possessions.
- Misusing your money by cashing cheques or accessing accounts without permission from you.
- Threatening or pressuring you to give them money.
- Making you feel guilty about their financial troubles so you feel obligated to help.
- Not allowing you to spend money on what you want.
- Persuading, tricking, or threatening you to make changes to your will and/or power of attorney.
- Pressuring you to sign legal papers you may not fully understand.
- Sharing your home without paying a fair share of the expenses or refusing to move out of your home when asked.
- Failing to provide you with agreed upon services such as care-giving or home maintenance.
- Refusing to return borrowed money or property
Some Warning Signs:
- A caregiver takes a great interest in your money and property matters.
- Your banking records do not match your activities (e.g. money withdrawals or transfers you have not made).
- Your bills are not paid because there is not enough money to cover them, even though there should be.
- Changes are made to your will, or your property that is not in your best interest.
How to Prevent Financial Abuse:
A list of ways you can help protect yourself from financial abuse:
- A joint bank account, power of attorney or other arrangements may be helpful but they should be used in your best interests. Make sure your wishes and expectations are clear when you enter into any such agreement.
- Have a lawyer review agreements you discuss.
- Open and send your own mail.
- Make sure you understand every document you sign. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or help from someone you trust.
- Have cheques deposited directly into your bank account and bills direct debited out of your account. Bank staff will set this up for you.
- Do not have joint bank accounts unless it is necessary.
- Do your own banking if you can.
- Say “no” when someone pressures you for money – even family members.
- Have a small withdrawal limit on your debit card. Then if someone forces you to give them money at the bank machine, it will only give you a small amount of cash.
- Do not keep large amounts of cash at home or in your wallet.
- Keep the cash on hand in small bills.
- Have low limits on credit cards.
- Do not give out your debit card or credit card PIN numbers.
- Do not let anyone set up online computer access to your bank accounts.
Financial Concerns Checklist:
Am I Being Financially Abused?
- I have trouble paying bills because the bills are confusing me.
- I don’t feel confident making big financial decisions alone.
- I don’t understand financial decisions that someone else is making for me.
- I give loans or gifts more than I can afford.
- My children, or others around me, are pressuring me to give them money.
- People are calling me or mailing me asking for money.
- Someone is accessing my accounts.
- Money seems to be disappearing from my accounts.
If you think that you are being taken advantage of financially, please ask for help. You have the right to be treated respectfully and to make decisions about your money and assets. Talk to someone you trust such as a friend, family member, neighbour, police officer, doctor, or staff member at your bank.