Financial Stalking: Another Frontier in Financial Abuse

Keeping tabs on how you spend money is an abusive power play.

  • Financial stalking is the notion that one person continually checks on what another is doing with their money without permission.
  • The goal of the abuser is to manipulate, intimidate, and threaten the victim through finances and to entrap them.
  • Financial abuse often occurs in physically and emotionally abusive relationships across the socio-economic spectrum and all ages.

A term I have heard more and more regarding emotional and financial abuse is financial stalking.

Financial stalking is the notion that one person continually checks on what the other is doing with their money and how they are spending it.

Some of this activity is covert, but in other cases, the partner who is stalking continually expresses displeasure with how the money is spent with the one who is stalked.

According to a recent study on finder.com,

Almost half of the American adults (47.7%) have monitored the financial activity of someone they know, such as checking their credit card statements or Venmo activity. And, roughly 53.7 million men (50.7%) and 52.3 million women (49.3%) admit to financial stalking.

If this recurs frequently, or if it is accompanied by harassment from the stalker, it is a form of financial and emotional abuse.

As I wrote earlier this year, financial abuse, as defined by the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is when “an abuser takes control of finances to prevent the other person from leaving and to maintain power in a relationship.” The abuser may take control of all the money, withhold it, and conceal financial information from the victim. The victim, in some cases, may even be the breadwinner.

Financial abuse often occurs in physically and emotionally abusive relationships across the socio-economic spectrum and in all age groups.

Controlling finances can mean not sharing passwords to bank, brokerage, retirement, and credit card account statements or refusing to share information about income, assets, and debt. This behavior can place the partner with little to no financial information in an anxious and vulnerable state.

According to Stacy Francis, CEO and founder of Francis Financial and the non-profit Savvy Ladies, the goal of the abuser is to manipulate, intimidate, and threaten the victim through finances to entrap the other person in the relationship. Getting one’s finances in order and becoming financially literate can help the victim understand the severity of the situation, how to get help, and how to achieve financial independence.

What does financial stalking look like?

  • When someone tries to control your access to money, either by insisting they have access to your bank account or obtaining passwords to the financial statements and reviews financial activity very frequently, and without your permission.
  • Sometimes this is done covertly, without you knowing what is going on.
  • Other times, that person might insist on knowing how every dollar is spent, including when you are earning money.
  • That person might also express dismay at some expenses, which they have no right to weigh in on.
  • Someone showing more than normal interest in your retirement funds, beneficiaries, etc.
  • A person who seems to know more about your financial situation than you do but has no right to be “in the know.”

Do I have legal options to make this stop?

Unfortunately, the people who exercise this type of abuse are often tough to deal with in that they will deny the behavior unless it can be proven without a doubt.

What you can do.

  • Talk to a trusted family member, friend, therapist, coach, and/or attorney about this type of behavior; At the same time, you may feel ashamed or embarrassed about finding yourself in this situation. It is essential to take the first step and identify the problem.
  • Be honest with yourself—is this relationship a partnership, or is it a dictatorship? Is it time to start a new chapter where you have more control of your life?
  • Keep careful records of every violation, as you will likely need documentation of this behavior at a later date.

Note: If you believe that you are financially abused, take stock of your situation. Are you a victim of domestic violence? Are you also being verbally and physically abused? If so, take steps to get out of the situation as soon as possible. Most of all, it is critical to do everything you can to keep yourself and your children safe and to protect your emotional well-being during this stressful time.

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • If you are fearful for your or your children’s safety, please visit The Hotline 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224 or (206) 518-9361 (Video Phone Only for Deaf Callers) or Safe Horizon.
  • To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

Callers need to understand that you cannot erase your phone cache, and abusers can pull info from the device itself or the phone bill. If you can phone or research using a friend’s device, please consider doing that.

NOTE: This is not intended to serve as legal or mental health advice. Each situation is unique, and please reach out to a local therapist or attorney to address your issues precisely.

Originally published in Psychology Today. Read the original publication here.

Let's Work Together