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How to Deal with Debts if You’re a Financial Abuse Survivor?

Find out how to deal with debts and the next steps you should take after escaping financial abuse

Woman looking through empty purse with a maxed out credit cards and a calculator - representing what it's like to be a victim of financial abuse

The devastating impact of financial abuse can last for years, and even with banking providers and building societies offering better support to those who have been impacted, survivors are often still plagued with thousands of pounds of debt to deal with. On average, they are left with over £3,000 worth of debt to deal with.

In a 2019 article written by the Independent, Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, the founder of the charity Surviving Financial Abuse, stated that more still needs to be done to support those who have escaped financial abuse, she said: “We are still keen that banks address the issue of coerced debt and write off debts incurred in this way. We are also calling for a statutory duty of care of banks to respond to vulnerable customers.”

Whilst important work is continuing to be carried out to offer better support, the outstanding debts will still need to be dealt with by the survivor. So, if you’ve one of the many survivors of financial abuse or know anyone who is, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you get back on track financially.

Getting Your Income Back on Track

One of the many ways abusers aim to control their victims is by forcing them to give up their work and their income. The gap in employment history can make finding a new job and getting back on your feet even harder.

So, the first step is to work on a plan to assess the damage that’s been caused:

  • Start by reviewing your bank statements to see how much debt you owe and to who,
  • Take count of all the credit accounts that you have in your name so you can monitor any changes, emails, and find out who you (or your nominated person) will need to speak too,
  • Check your credit report for a complete overview of your debts, Credit Karma and Experian are great credit reference agencies who offer a free credit checking service.  
  • Work on your CV and brush up on your skills to find a job that suits you. Don’t feel pressured to get back out to work but wait until you’re ready.

Cleaning up Your Credit Report

Often those trapped can be forced or manipulated to open accounts in their name or without their knowledge or permission.

So, if you’ve experienced this and have mounting debts that are impacting your credit record, the Credit Reference Agency, Experian have a Victims of Fraud Team who can help to dispute accounts that they have with lenders as fraudulent, on a survivor’s behalf.

By cleaning up any fraudulent accounts – including both the ones you know about and the ones you don’t – you’ll be able to access financial services that can help to rebuild your life.

Rebuilding Your Financial Future after Financial Abuse

This might feel like the scary part after living without financial independence. After all, what comes next? However, try and see this opportunity to rebuild a strong basis on which to rebuild and restart your life! Here are a few things you can do to get started.

Open a new Banking Account

If you don’t already have a banking account, making one should be one of your first steps. If your damaged credit score is preventing you from opening one – look for basic bank accounts or a prepaid debit card account, like us here at Suits Me®.

Some prepaid card providers, offer the same functionality as a standard bank account but don’t require a credit check or proof of address.

Ensuring that your new account comes with a savings feature is a good way to help you to deal with financial emergencies when you’re back on your feet. Work towards saving 3 times your monthly income in a rainy-day fund to add more security to your future.

Make a Budget that Suits Your Needs

A budget will help you understand exactly where your money is going each month. Most people prefer a zero-balanced budget where they account for every penny of their income. This may be a good option to choose as it will help you regain a sense of control over your money.

👉 To learn more about budgeting, check out our helpful guide which explains 4 different ways you can start a budget to find a method that best suits you.

Plan to Tackle Outstanding Debts

Debt repayments should be included in your budget, it may seem like an overwhelming task and the level of outstanding debt could make your eyes water. Especially, when it’s not your fault. However, most lenders will be understanding about your financial situation and will help you to write off your debts or work towards creating a repayment plan that works for you.

Remember, you don’t have to go through this process on your own, turn to your friends and family for support or feel ashamed to ask for help when you need it. There are local and national charities that work with financial abuse survivors who can help you to get back on your feet. From helping you find suitable accommodation to speaking to lenders.

Focus on Your Future & Don’t Give Up

Don’t forget, your new journey is one of freedom, both personally and financially so treat it as a marathon, not a sprint. Celebrate every small step towards your own financial stability and don’t give up.

If you or a loved one is suffering from financial abuse, please reach out for help. You can contact the charity Refuge on 0808 2000 247 for free, confidential support and advice. 

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