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What is financial abuse?

author: Sarah Neate

By Sarah Neate

When someone gets blocked from taking control of their finances over a long period, it can have detrimental long-term effects.

Not only can it result in financial issues such as debts, but it can also lead to other forms of abuse. 

Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse and should get reported to the police. It can look different for each person. Some people experience violence as well as financial abuse, but this isn’t always the case. 

Financial abuse is when another person tries to stop someone from having control over their own money. It’s often a way for the abuser to exert power over the victim. In many cases, the abuse comes from someone close to the victim, such as a partner, family member, friend or carer.

Financial abuse can be:

  • someone taking someone else’s money
  • someone misusing someone else’s money
  • controlling someone’s access to money
  • controlling what someone can buy with their money
  • linked to other forms of abuse.

Signs of financial abuse

Financial abuse can come in many different forms, such as:

  • a person getting credit cards and loans in your name without your permission
  • a person forcing you to hand over control of your accounts
  • cashing in cheques without your permission
  • cashing in your pension without authorisation
  • someone adding their name to your accounts
  • encouraging you to change your will in their favour
  • stopping you from seeing members of your family
  • stopping you from seeing your friends
  • stopping you from going to work, college or university
  • wanting proof of everything you’ve spent
  • putting all bills in your name.

Financial abuse can happen to anyone. However, some people are more likely to be at risk than others.  People who have suffered other forms of abuse, those with learning difficulties, a disability, or a medical condition are at higher risk.

How to get help for financial abuse

If you need to speak to someone about financial abuse, there are several helplines available:  

According to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, if you’re suffering from financial abuse you should keep a record of every incident that takes place, and log the date. Report each incident to the police or your doctor.

Try and put a plan in place in case you need to leave your home in an emergency. Make sure you know where all your important documents are such as:

  • your passport
  • driving license
  • bank statements
  • bills in your name.

What to do if you think someone you know might be suffering from financial abuse

If you think someone you know might be suffering financial abuse, reach out to them and make it clear that you’re someone they can talk to and trust. Create a safe space where you can talk in private.

If they do disclose anything, the first thing you should do is validate their disclosure. Fear of not being believed can cause major barriers when it comes to victims disclosing abuse. Don't judge them, and be sure to remind them they’re not alone.  

The next thing you should do is signpost them to places that can help, such as any of the websites listed above.

Don't rush them - give them time. It can be frustrating to see someone you know suffering, but let them deal with it on their terms and in their own time. Recognising there is a problem is the first step. 

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

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